David Prosser: In search of a coherent energy policy
Thursday 23 June 2011
Outlook There is much to commend in Ofgem's burst of activity of late. Its announcements yesterday of an investigation into Scottish Power's price promises and the go-ahead for energy market reforms already trailed were both sensible. Yet one cannot help but feel these matters are trivial compared to the big question facing Britain's energy industry – the one publicly posed by the regulator more than a year ago, to which we have yet to hear a satisfactory answer.
That question is this: as Britain's ageing power stations near the end of their operating lives, how do we ensure that the lights do not go out while also keeping the pledges we have made about cutting carbon emissions?
When Ofgem posed that question in February 2010, it said there was a limited window of opportunity in which there was time to act. Some 16 months later, Britain has yet to agree an energy policy for the next decade and beyond and the window will soon close. Centrica's chief executive, Sam Laidlaw, will say today that he thinks we have only a year left in which to agree a strategy – if we do not, we will not be able to deliver both energy security and our carbon commitments.
What is not in doubt is that it will be bill payers who pay for the revamp of Britain's energy infrastructure. On Ofgem's own figures, we could be talking about an average annual increase in bills of anything between £250 and £600.
Are people willing, or even able, to accept those costs, particularly since bills are already rising so quickly for commercial reasons? Centrica's research suggests the answer may be no – it points to a survey in which only one in four people said the Government should go for low-carbon solutions if that meant higher bills.
A vital part of the energy policy challenge will be affordability. For while the moral case for doing everything possible to addressclimate change is crystal clear, the more mundane questions about cost have yet to be answered – indeed, for many households, they have yet to be posed.
- 1 King Salman: Just five days in, Saudi Arabia's new king has already overseen a beheading
- 2 The BBC has just done more to eradicate ‘terrorism’ than all our wars since 9/11
- 3 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 4 Presidential optical illusion offers clues to how brain processes faces
- 5 Grumpy Roald Dahl letter warning student to 'eschew beastly adjectives' rediscovered after 35 years
King Salman: Just five days in, Saudi Arabia's new king has already overseen a beheading
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary: Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
Presidential optical illusion offers clues to how brain processes faces
Chilling drone footage captures Auschwitz ahead of 70th anniversary of liberation
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
iJobs Money & Business
£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...
£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Technical Report Writer is re...
£16500 - £16640 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing Finance compa...
£30000 - £32000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...