Liz Truss blocks energy saving campaign ‘on ideological grounds’

Minister says government views public information campaign as ‘nanny state’

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Friday 07 October 2022 08:04 BST
Blackouts: What are they and why might they happen this winter?

Liz Truss has blocked plans for a public information campaign asking people to save energy over the winter, reportedly because she is "ideologically opposed" to the idea.

Ministers on Friday morning claimed the idea was “nanny state” and confirmed that they would not be urging people to keep an eye on their usage despite warnings from National Grid of possibly rolling blackouts.

Business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg is said to have been keen on a £15 million campaign as a relatively cost-effective way of reducing the UK's energy usage at a time of surging prices and scarcity.

The "light touch" plan would have recommended measures designed to help people save up to £300 a year – including lower the temperature of of boilers and turning down radiators in empty rooms.

But it was blocked by Downing Street, with The Times newspaper quoting a government source who said the prime minister was "ideologically opposed" to such an approach.

Asked about why the policy was not going forward on Friday morning, climate minister Graham Stuart told LBC radio: "We are not a nanny state government."

Speaking the same morning on Sky News he added: "We're not sending that out as a message... The last thing you want to do is tell people to switch things off for the national need when it makes no difference to the national position."

Mr Stuart added that the government did not expect blackouts to occur but that it was planning for all eventualities, adding: "In all the central scenarios we're gonna be fine."

Asked about the blocked campaign, the climate minister said: "I don't I don't recognise that. We're in an iterative process of policy development and ideas, and we come to a conclusion.

"So the idea there was some highly developed campaign which we were passionately devoted to and No 10 nixed it, I don't recognise that. I don't think that's the way it was."

Conservative MP Maria Caulfield also backed the prime minister, saying on Friday morning: "I’m all for an energy saving campaign this winter but do we need to spend £15 million to do that. The PM is right to question if this is the best use of tax payers money."

National Grid said on Thursday that British households could lose power for up to three hours at a time this winter if gas supplies run extremely low.

The company, which manages the UK's energy infrastructure, stressed that the scenario was "unlikely" and that the current "base-case" was no blackouts.

Customers would be warned in advance about the blackouts, which would come at times high demand – either the morning or between 4pm and 9pm.

Disruption to Europe's energy supply has been caused by the knock-on effects of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has limited the supply of gas and allowed wholesalers to charge higher market prices.

This has compounded existing issues caused by a surge in demand for fuels following the restarting of world economics after Covid-19 lockdowns.

Asked about the possibility of a public information campaign a government spokesman said: "The UK has a secure and diverse energy system.

"We have plans to protect households and businesses in the full range of scenarios this winter, in light of Russia's illegal war in Ukraine.

"To strengthen this position further, we have put plans in place to secure supply and National Grid, working alongside energy suppliers and Ofgem, will launch a voluntary service to reward users who reduce demand at peak times.

"We will continue to work internationally on tackling rising energy prices and ensuring security of supply, but there are no current plans to follow the EU's decision.

"However, ministers are not launching a public information campaign and any claim otherwise is untrue."

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in