Energy Minister: ‘People see energy as a right’

People now view energy as a right to the extent they don’t realise the effort it takes to keep the lights on, Energy Minister John Hayes claimed today. He made […]

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By Vicky Ellis

People now view energy as a right to the extent they don’t realise the effort it takes to keep the lights on, Energy Minister John Hayes claimed today.

He made the comments in a speech minutes before ScottishPower’s Keith Anderson warned the danger of the UK’s generation margin being squeezed down to just 3% – which would be a “real issue” for security of supply.

Mr Hayes told the Future of Utilities conference in London: “We face a particular challenge. The invisibility of electricity makes it hard to perceive its value. In an age where its reliability is a given. There was a time when it wasn’t like that.”

He added: “In an age that’s preoccupied by rights – I’m not frankly preoccupied by them but the age probably is – power has become a perceived right. People have come to believe they have a right to power, to electricity. That means most people don’t think about how we provide it,” he added.

In a less ebullient speech than he has been known for, the Tory minister also stated the Government is “determined” to get value for money for customers and investors when it comes to energy.

This was despite earlier broaching with the idea it was exceptionally hard to “quantify” value. He told the audience: “I am the champion of commerce but… When the perceived value of a product declines, that must be addressed by utilities as a matter of business.”

Although much has been made in the press of the minister’s criticism towards wind power before joining DECC, he took pains to counter the idea he was biased towards any energy source: “I don’t by the way support any technology as an article of faith… I see all of these things as measured against their purpose…. The mix is not something I take a quasi-religious view about.”