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Shell plans to expand amid energy market chaos

·3-min read
shell oil rig - Ken Taylor/Shell/PA Wire
shell oil rig - Ken Taylor/Shell/PA Wire

Shell is pursuing a significant expansion of its business supplying electricity to UK households amid intense volatility in energy markets.

The FTSE 100 company wants to supply clean power to five million households and electric car drivers by 2030, up from about 1.5m today, as part of plans to diversify away from oil and gas.

Shell plans to invest £20bn-£25bn in the UK over the decade, more than 75pc of which will go towards low carbon energy such as wind turbines and electric car charging points.

David Bunch, Shell's UK country chair, said the investments will help “propel the UK closer to net zero and help to ensure security of supply”.

However, he said the company needs a “stable tax and investment climate” and businesses and government need to “pull in the same direction”.

It comes after the Government announced a windfall tax on oil and gas producers, to try to raise cash for households struggling with record household energy bills.

Shell’s core business is drilling for oil and gas but it also supplies about 1.4m UK households with energy via its UK retail business Shell Energy Retail.

About 100,000 drivers are also signed up to its Shell Recharge service for electric car charging in the UK.  

Shell’s retail unit has grown since last year following the collapse of about 30 rival suppliers since last August amid a surge in wholesale gas prices.

It has picked up more than 500,000 customers left behind by failed suppliers Pure Planet, Daligas, Colorado Energy and Green Supplier, under the regulator’s safety net process.

Meanwhile, the Government is nearing a deal to extend the lifespans of Britain’s last remaining coal power stations to the end of next winter.

It is expected a deal will be announced this week to delay the closure of coal-fired West Burton A, in Nottinghamshire, from October to March, a Whitehall source confirmed to The Telegraph.

It is hoped that deals to extend the lifespan of other coal plants, such as turbines operated by Drax in Yorkshire and a unit operated by Uniper in Nottinghamshire, will be announced in coming weeks as well.

West Burton A is owned by EDF. The deal to delay its closure will see the plant kept as a backup power source for as many as 1.5m homes, according to the Financial Times.

It comes after Kwasi Kwarteng, the Business Secretary, appealed to the operators of coal-fired plants to explore whether they could remain open for longer as a result of the energy crunch caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Europe is trying to end its long-running dependence on Russian fossil fuels in an attempt to cut off funding to the Kremlin.

Gas exports from the UK to the EU have surged following the invasion, it emerged on Monday, as Britain  becomes a "gas bridge" to the continent.

The UK exported £1.6bn worth of gas to the EU during April and March compared to £772m during January and February.

The EU typically bought about 40pc of its gas from Russia before the war but wants to cut this by two-thirds this year.

It is increasingly looking to suppliers such as the US, Qatar and certain countries in Africa, with supplies from the US in particular effectively routed through the UK. Large amounts of gas are being shipped to the UK before being sent through pipes to the continent.