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Fuel Prices

Volume 927: debated on Wednesday 2 March 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will revise the table con- tained in the Written Answer, Official Report, 26th January 1977, column 637, domestic fuel prices, giving the comparative figures for both gas and electricity on the basis of useful heat in pence per therm; and whether it is Government policy to close the price gap between these two fuels.

The average fuel prices quoted in the Written Answer to which the hon. Member refers are a combination of different types and levels of tariffs and standing charges and they are quite unsuitable for any comparison of fuel prices per therm of useful heat or of heating costs. The calculation of fuel prices per therm of useful heat requires information on efficiency in use. User efficiency varies widely according to type of appliance and installation, method of use, personal habits and circumstances. Further, in the case of electricity, space heating costs should be based largely on the cheap night-rate tariffs, which are much lower than any overall average price for electricity. For both gas and electricity one would also need to include annual operating and maintenance costs, and in many cases allowance would need to be made for the cost of purchasing and installing modern, well-designed appliances with efficiencies higher than overall averages. It is not practicable to calculate the changes in costs, prices and efficiencies over time for all these items, so that it is not possible to produce meaningful comparative figures on the basis of useful heat in pence per therm. However the relevant factors have been assessed for present-day conditions and the resulting total annual heating costs covering four locations in the United Kingdom are published in a set of four booklets with the title "Compare your home heating costs." Copies are available in the Library of the House.