The government is reviewing the Energy Security Bill, recently-appointed climate minister Graham Stuart has confirmed to Utility Week.
Rumours that a review was taking place of the government’s first piece of energy legislation in nearly a decade emerged last month, following Jacob Rees-Mogg’s appointment as secretary of state for business and energy.
According to media reports, Rees-Mogg was keen to review the bill in order to free up Parliamentary time for any legislation required to support the government’s efforts to offer financial support for energy bills.
However, the speculation was greeted with dismay by some industry figures, who were concerned that delaying or dropping the bill would result in the abandonment of key measures, which it contains, including the creation of an independent Future Systems Operator and the regulation of heat networks.
Quizzed by Utility Week at a fringe event at the Conservative party conference on Tuesday morning, Stuart confirmed for the first time on the record that the bill is under review.
“That (the bill) is being reviewed at the moment, but it’s full of very important measures, which are going to help us accelerate on the issues that we’re talking about today.”
Bim Afolami, chair of the Parliamentary Renewable & Sustainable Energy Group (PRASEG), told the same meeting that the bill has widespread backing from MPs. “There’s a huge amount of support for the bill so I hope it does come forward.”
Stuart also told the meeting that he wants to see the rollout of solar power accelerated, noting that large scale deployments of the technology are now the “cheapest” source of power available.
But large-scale solar farms, which Truss decried during her leadership campaign, will need to secure community support and cannot be imposed by deploying arguments that they should be approved in the national interest, he said: “We’ve got to make sure we learn the lessons from the past and we do so in a way that carries people with us.”
Afolami said the UK must face up to sustained increases in energy prices due to increased mismatches between supply and demand resulting from the growth of emerging market economies.
He said: “The reasons for the high energy prices are not just because of the war in Ukraine. That has exacerbated the problem significantly but there is something deeper going on in the global energy market. That means that we’re going to have to explain to the public, not just in this country, but elsewhere, that at the same time as developing a more renewable cleaner and greener energy system, we’re also going to have to provide more oil and gas.
“Over time, we will need less and less oil. 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.”
The structural nature of many of these security of supply issues means there will be a case for 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.”