EDF has said it is not ready to take on new customers from energy firms that have gone bust due to high gas prices.
Two more companies went bankrupt on Wednesday, but EDF’s Philippe Commaret said the company was already working on relocating customers from failed company Utility Point.
Ofgem appoints companies to act as a “supplier of last resort” for customers whose energy company has gone out of business.
Mr. Commaret stated that it was now a “big question” whether the regulator could compel firms to accept these customers.
Pure Planet and Colorado Energy became the latest companies to go bankrupt on Wednesday, following a sharp increase in wholesale gas prices this year.
Eleven energy companies have gone bankrupt since September, affecting nearly two million customers.
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EDF has acquired 220,000 customers from Utility Point, which went bankrupt about a month ago. Ofgem appointed it in January to take over 360,000 households from Green Network Energy.
According to Mr. Commaret, the question of whether Ofgem can compel larger energy firms to take on that role is “the big question at the moment across the industry.”
“What we’re seeing is that the supplier of last resort [process] has worked really well up until now, and we can be very proud that industry has stepped in to help the customers who were in distress,” he said on the BBC’s Today programme.
“The question is whether we will be able to take that any further, and I believe that for ourselves, our top priority is obviously to maintain the quality of service for customers, not to create any harm to customers.”
According to an Ofgem spokesman, the regulator can “direct” a company to take on customers from a failed supplier, but discussions must always take place between the regulator and the new firm.
The recent spate of collapses has been blamed on the price cap on customers’ energy bills, according to energy companies.
Wholesale gas prices have risen by up to 250 percent since January, peaking in August. The price cap protects domestic customers in England, Wales, and Scotland on standard – or default – tariffs from sharp increases in energy costs.
According to Mr. Commaret, “all the suppliers are suffering at the moment.”
Mr Commaret commented on whether EDF will accept Pure Planet or Colorado customers, saying, “As you can imagine, onboarding tens of thousands of customers is a challenge for the operations.”
“I will not apply to be the supplier of last resort for any additional customers until we have completed the onboarding of the Utility Point customers.”
Some of the UK’s largest energy companies have been appointed as last-resort suppliers to failed businesses.
British Gas has acquired 441,000 customers from MoneyPlus Energy, PFP Energy, and People’s Energy combined. Octopus Energy has come to the aid of Avro Energy’s 580,000 customers.
E.On is the last-resort supplier for 233,000 domestic customers from Igloo, Symbio, and Enstroga. Shell Energy is responsible for 255,000 Green Supplier Ltd customers.
The government has the authority to appoint a special administrator – a form of quasi-temporary nationalisation – to ensure that domestic customers have uninterrupted energy supplies.