British energy bills can rise by $151 a year: regulator

Lawmakers earlier said customers were being overcharged for electricity and gas. (File/AFP)
Updated 07 February 2019
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British energy bills can rise by $151 a year: regulator

  • “We can assure these customers... that these increases are only due to actual rises in energy costs,” regulator said
  • Ofgem said it needed to allow suppliers to charge more as wholesale energy contracts were 17 percent higher

Britain’s regulator said energy suppliers could increase consumer bills by 117 pounds ($151) a year from April 1 as it announced an increase in its annual price cap on Thursday, due to rising wholesale costs.
Ofgem was tasked by parliament to set a limit after lawmakers said customers were being overcharged for electricity and gas. Prime Minister Theresa May had called the tariffs a “rip-off.”
Ofgem said it needed to allow suppliers to charge more as wholesale energy contracts, used to help formulate the cap level, were 17 percent higher than during the last cap period.
“We can assure these customers... that these increases are only due to actual rises in energy costs, rather than excess charges from supplier profiteering,” Ofgem chief executive Dermot Nolan said.
The cap for average annual consumption will rise to 1,254 pounds from 1,137 pounds for customers on the most commonly used tariffs.
Ofgem calculates the cap using a formula that includes wholesale gas prices, energy suppliers network costs and costs of government policies, such as renewable power subsidies.
Several of Britain’s biggest suppliers, a group known as the “Big Six,” complained that the cap was initially set too low.
Most are expected to increase prices once it is raised. The big six energy suppliers are Centrica’s British Gas, SSE, Iberdrola’s Scottish Power, Innogy’s npower, E.ON and EDF Energy.


India suspends Kashmir border trade with Pakistan

Updated 19 April 2019
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India suspends Kashmir border trade with Pakistan

  • Kashmir has been on edge since a February suicide attack that killed 40 Indian paramilitaries
  • India said it had reports that trade on the border was being “misused by Pakistan-based elements for funnelling illegal weapons, narcotics and fake currency”

NEW DELHI: India has suspended trade across its disputed Kashmir border with Pakistan, alleging that weapons and drugs are being smuggled across the route, as tensions simmer between the nuclear-armed neighbors.
Kashmir has been on edge since a February suicide attack that killed 40 Indian paramilitaries and brought the two countries to the brink of war with cross-border air strikes.
On Thursday, India’s government, which is in the middle of a tough national election, said it had reports that trade on the border was being “misused by Pakistan-based elements for funnelling illegal weapons, narcotics and fake currency.”
It also said many of those trading across the Line of Control, which divides Kashmir into zones under Indian and Pakistani control, had links to militant organizations.
The home ministry said trade would be suspended until a stricter inspection mechanism is in place.
The cross-border trade is based on a barter system, with traders exchanging goods including chillies, cumin, mango and dried fruit.
It began in 2008 as a way to improve strained relations between New Delhi and Islamabad, who have fought two of their three wars over the disputed region.
The Indian Express newspaper said Friday that 35 trucks carrying fruit traveling from the Indian side of the border had been stopped after the government order.
Trade on the border has been suspended before, including in 2015, when India accused a Pakistani driver of drug trafficking.
The latest move comes after India withdrew “Most Favoured Nation Status” — covering trade links — from Pakistan after the February attack, which was claimed by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed Islamist group.
Islamabad has denied any involvement in the attack.
India’s Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made national security a key plank of his re-election campaign, pointing to the recent flare-up of violence as he battles the center-left opposition Congress party.
He is seeking a second term from the country’s 900 million voters in the mammoth election which kicked off on April 11 and runs till May 19. The results will be out on May 23.