Boris Johnson puts on a Bulb-branded face maskAbout three hours after Bulb announced to the world, including its 1.7 million household customers, that it had gone bust, Ofgem confirmed the fact. Slow reactions, sadly, have typified the regulator’s struggle to keep pace with events in the energy crisis.

Even now, after the biggest company failure, one can discern only an outline of a plan for reforming the retail market to ensure it can withstand future storms.

Still, “special administration”, or nationalisation, was the only practical short-term solution for Bulb. It would have been impossible to oblige another supplier to swallow so many customers in one gulp.

The financial pain of loss-making supply contracts would merely have been shifted along the line.

The special administration regime is untested in the energy market, but similar arrangements have worked for more complex businesses in the past – Railtrack in 2001, for example.

The critical necessary ingredient is capital to underwrite energy-purchase and hedging contracts.

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