Worries about the security of UK gas supplies are to be probed by the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) select committee, the group’s chair has announced.
Rachel Reeves told the Energy UK annual conference yesterday (16 October) that her committee will be holding an inquiry into the issue, which is also being looked at internally within the BEIS department in the wake of Centrica’s closure of Britain’s biggest gas storage facility at Rough in the North Sea.
The committee will examine issues around UK gas security and gas storage, the government’s approach to diversity of supply, and the actions the government is taking to ensure the supply system is robust and secure.
Reeves said: “Following the closure of the Rough [gas] storage facility earlier this year there have been concerns about the availability of gas during the winter. There were particular worries in March when we experienced the cold snap and the ‘Beast from the East’.
“We will check that the government has the necessary measures in place to cope with everything that the weather might throw at us and whether the gas market is mature and liquid enough to respond in a timely and affordable way to spikes in demand for gas.”
An evidence session at the end of this month will focus on the decision to close the Rough gas storage facility, the potential for future provision of new ones and whether the costs of their provision should be borne by the taxpayer or businesses and consumers.
Polling, carried out in September by the Gas Security Group (GSG), showed near unanimous agreement amongst major users of the fuel that more UK gas storage capacity would reduce the threat of supply shortages and mitigate associated volatility in energy prices.
Nearly as many (96 per cent) agreed that the combination of falling UK gas production and increased dependence on imported supplies “seriously” increases the likelihood of gas supply disruptions and energy price volatility, while 85 per cent said imports cannot be relied upon to deliver gas when it is most needed.
And two-thirds said Brexit and the UK’s possible withdrawal from the single energy market seriously increased the threat of gas and electricity disruptions and higher energy costs.
Clive Moffatt, co-ordinator of the GSG, said the committee’s inquiry is timely.
He said: “Gas has a major role to play in providing heat and power in the foreseeable future and ensuring continuity of supply at an affordable price is critical to the future well-being of the UK economy and consumers.
“Gas security is an issue that requires the immediate attention of policy-makers and the GSG is looking forward to the opportunity to present written and oral evidence to the select committee.”