Britain’s first energy security bill for nearly ten years is undergoing a Whitehall re-think, a government minister has gone on record to confirm.
Now in the Lords in the care of D-BEIS minister Lord Callanan, the bill’s proposals to establish an independent System Operator will set the future direction of Britain’s backbone electricity transmission.
Other measures in the wide-ranging bill cover crucial areas such as the commercial resilience of energy retailers, setting higher efficiency standards in buildings, regulation of low carbon heat networks, and the government’s granting of prime minister Truss’s promised 100 new licences for North Sea exploration.
Kwasi Kwarteng introduced the package in Parliament in July. Fears have grown among industry participants that other key elements, setting new directions on regulation, arbitration and competitive structure of the power industry are at risk of sacrifice, as new energy secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg seeks parliamentary time to authorise the government’s increased measures to offset rocketing consumer bills.
Climate junior minister Graham Stuart confirmed at the Conservatives’ conference this week that the bill is indeed under review.
As reported by a rival media source from an energy forum in Birmingham, Stuart said “(The bill) is full of very important measures, which are going to help us accelerate action (on important issues)”.
Stuart also indicated that proposals for the biggest new solar farms are likely to need firmer proof of local support, and could no longer rely merely on approval by the National Planning Inspectorate as being in the national interest. Farms over 100MWp at present fall into that category.
Per the same report, the minister said he wished that solar’s rollout should be speeded up, acknowledging that at large scale, solar farms are now the “cheapest” source of generation. But developers would need to demonstrate that they were ‘carrying local people with (the projects)’, Stuart stressed.
Reported from the same meeting, Bim Afolami, Conservative chair of the all-party PRASEG group of MPs backing renewables, said underlying causes going beyond the war in Ukraine made it necessary to explain to voters that Britain would need to provide more oil and gas, at least in the medium term.
“Over time, we will need less and less oil,” Afolami was reported as saying.
“But right now, if we do not get the investment going into new oil and gas fields globally, you end up with a scenario where the energy becomes so expensive that you create not only socio-economic and political problems but you end up with different countries on an emergency basis burning coal. That is the worst conceivable thing you can do”, he observed.
“The structural nature of many of these security of supply issues means there will be a case for the long term, expensive investments, such as storage and enhanced electricity distribution,” he added.
“If we can make it easier to have more localised pricing and localised systems, if we can do some of that really hard plumbing work, we can set ourselves up for things over the next 10 to 15 years in a really effective way, said the Etonian MP.