Energy Secretary defends conservative approach

Energy Secretary Chris Huhne defended his energy policies yesterday by claiming that a portfolio approach toward energy was safe, as the future was uncertain. Speaking to the Lords Select Committee […]

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By Tom Gibson

Energy Secretary Chris Huhne defended his energy policies yesterday by claiming that a portfolio approach toward energy was safe, as the future was uncertain. Speaking to the Lords Select Committee for Science and Technology after giving energy National Policy Statements to parliament, Mr Huhne said it would be wrong to pick a favourite form of energy.

He said: “I don’t know any other way than spreading our risks. We won’t get the long term solution 100% right, but we won’t get it 100% wrong either. France did get it magnificently right in investment, since the seventies, but they might have got it magnificently wrong.”

Responding to Lord Willis of Knaresborough, who suggested DECC’s decisions could prevent UK plc from blossoming, the Energy Secretary said he had to think of other factors: “As an economist I have to consider the costs. My overwhelming concern is to make sure not just that we have energy supplies that are certain, but also that they are certain and at a price that is affordable to consumers. If we were to adopt the ‘Stella Artois’ approach to energy policy, that it should be ‘reassuringly expensive’, I’m afraid the reality is that we might find that we have a lot less energy intensive users in this country.”

The Energy White Paper has set out policies that will promote various types of energy, which the d epartment claims will protect the UK from future energy crises and could help deliver with the roll-out of inconsistent generators such as wind power.

Mr Huhne warned the committee that preferring one energy type to another could leave the UK short: “Even if we were to go through this scenario of high fossil fuel prices, with lots of nuclear and lots of renewables, we’d still need that swing production because we’d still have those quite substantial peaks and troughs of demand and indeed, that variability, as we rely more on renewables, will get greater.

Whatever else happens we are going to need Carbon Capture and Storage and the International Energy Agency has calculated, if I remember correctly, we are going to need globally 3400 new coal and gas plants with CCS by 2020. So I would enormously discourage the committee from going down the track that we should play God and pick a winner.”