Energy firms are to be forced to give consumers a breakdown of their costs, peers were told last night.
Energy and climate change minister Baroness Verma said information on bills would include the cost of complying with government environmental programmes as well as wholesale energy costs, network and distribution costs and energy company operating costs and profits.
Lady Verma said four of the biggest suppliers already provided a breakdown of their costs on consumer bills and, as a first step, the Government would be seeking a voluntary agreement with the other suppliers to ensure they also provided a breakdown.
"It is right that we should at first pursue a voluntary agreement as this is the quickest and most cost effective route to getting this information out to consumers,” she said. "But if the Government is unable to reach agreement to a voluntary approach, the Secretary of State will exercise this power."
Lady Verma was moving amendments to the Energy Bill which would give ministers the power to require energy suppliers to provide a breakdown of their costs. The move, in third reading debate, came in response to demands from Tory backbenchers during the Bill's earlier stages.
"The Government is in complete agreement on the importance of providing clear information on the costs that contribute towards consumers' energy bills including the cost of government policies," she said.
"I believe this approach strikes the right balance between providing transparency on the costs incurred by suppliers without imposing significant additional burdens."
For Labour, Lord Grantchester said that while he endorsed the spirit of the amendment it did not go far enough. Without proper reform of the market such data was likely to be of limited use.