Labour would regulate to make businesses save energy if they failed to act of their own accord, shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint revealed on Wednesday.

Speaking at the Praseg annual conference in London, Flint criticised the government’s approach to reducing demand using the capacity market.

That will only give an incentive for demand reduction when there’s a potential shortfall in capacity and be unsuitable for households or small businesses, she argued.

“Frankly, we shouldn’t be paying people for things they should or would be doing anyway,” said Flint. “So before capacity payments are made, we must be clear about what companies should do themselves to reduce their demand for electricity and, if they don’t, what the role for regulation is.”

Citing a successful programme by the Co-op, Flint claimed if every supermarket in Britain put doors on their fridges, it would save energy equivalent to roughly double the output of Drax power station.

The need for stronger action on energy efficiency to keep down the costs of decarbonising the sector was a common theme of the conference.

Energy UK chief executive Angela Knight suggested council tax breaks for well-insulated buildings could help. “I think we would see households take a far more aggressive line on doing something about their own properties,” she said.

Lord Deben, chair of the Committee on Climate Change, said: “The trouble with energy efficiency is, it is not big boys’ toys… We have got to recognise that energy efficiency and better use of our resources is at the heart of what we have got to do.”

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