Government pushes for non-Russian gas supplies

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The Independent Online

The UK Government is piling on the pressure for a "Southern Corridor" of energy supplies to avoid over-reliance on Russian gas.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, the Energy minister, is in Turkey and Azerbaijan this week as part of a concerted British effort to push energy security up the European agenda following last winter's ruckus between Russia and Ukraine over gas supplied through the latter's pipelines. "Last winter was a wake-up call to Europe because it showed we must develop diverse sources of supply," Lord Hunt said. "I am here to encourage progress, talk to government and industry and do everything we can to encourage the development of the Southern Corridor."

A central element of the development of alternative supply routes is the proposed Nabucco pipeline from Azerbaijan, through Turkey, in Europe. The British Government is trying to smooth political negotiations affecting the project, such as the rules governing transit of Azeri gas through Turkey and the price to be paid. Lord Hunt met the Turkish energy minister yesterday and is holding talks with his Azeri counterpart today to try to push discussions ahead. "If that can be resolved then the way is open for commercial companies to come in with investment and develop the infrastructure," he said.

The Southern Corridor is also potentially big business for British companies. Lord Hunt's tour included meetings with both local energy groups and major British players in the region, including BP, Shell and International Power. "It is about understanding what the issues are in the region and getting a feel about likely developments in the future," he said.