Energy body appoints chief as pressure builds

The body representing UK energy companies is ushering in a new comms chief amid mounting concerns over gas and electricity price hikes.

Kate Fielding will join the Energy Retail Association at the end of February, taking the title head of comms and media relations. She is currently head of comms at the General Optical Council.

The appointment has emerged in the week that Chancellor Alistair Darling demanded a crisis meeting with energy regulator Ofgem, following npower's gas and electricity price hikes last week.

The news received blanket coverage amid warnings that the other major energy suppliers are to follow suit.

Russell Hamblin-Boone, director of corporate affairs at The Energy Retail Association, said the organisation had spent this week dealing with the flurry of negative press stories surrounding the potential increase in energy prices.

Hamblin-Boone said that the association had a policy to never comment on an individual company's decision. 'We do not defend individual companies' actions because we have to act on behalf of all our members, and as competitors they may not agree with another company's decision,' he explained.

The association will also not comment for 24 hours after a story has broken about one of its members. 'It is too risky. Despite what they say, journalists always ask us questions about the individual members involved in a story and this is something we cannot comment on,' said Hamblin-Boone.

Instead the body exploits opportunities to discuss sector concerns. 'We want to put these stories in context by educating the media and the public on the background. We always say we never play for a win. The best win we can get is a draw,' he said.

The Energy Retail Association represents Britain's domestic electricity and gas suppliers in the domestic market. Members include British Gas, EDF Energy, npower, E.ON, Scottish Power, and Scottish and Southern Energy.

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