Britain’s energy strategy is an incoherent mess which is unlikely to ensure future supplies or succeed in fighting climate change, according to a report by academics published on Monday.
“Britain’s energy policy just doesn’t stack up. It won’t deliver security. It won’t deliver on our commitments on climate change. It falls short of what the world’s poorest countries need,” the leader of the Oxford University Taskforce report on energy security, politics and poverty, Chris Patten, said.
The former minister said the government’s latest attempt to patch up its “hotchpotch” of energy and climate change policies — last month’s Energy White Paper — only highlighted the mess.
The report says Britain still has no coherent strategy for replacing the one third of electricity generation which is soon to be retired, much of it nuclear, leaving companies unsure of what to build and therefore building nothing.
The report’s panel said that policy on energy security, climate change and development aid is muddled and ineffective largely because it is handled by different government departments all pursuing different goals.
Europe’s oil supplies from Russia were being held to ransom last night as the Kremlin fell into bitter dispute with a former Soviet satellite state.
Moscow abruptly halted millions of barrels of oil destined for the EU via Belarus in an increasingly hostile wrangle with its neighbour.
The move raised further questions over whether Western Europe can trust Mr Putin for its energy supply. Experts said that Russia had a deeply entrenched habit of manipulating oil and gas supplies as a substitute for diplomatic policy.
Russia’s strong-arm tactics have added resonance in Britain, amid persistent speculation that Gazprom, the Kremlin-controlled gas group, will seek to buy Centrica, the British Gas group, which has 16 million gas and electricity customers in the UK. Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, told The Times last night that Germany will use its six-month EU presidency to improve energy security on the Continent.
In her first interview with a British newspaper she signalled that she would take a harsher line towards Russia than her predecessor, Gerhard Schröder, who is now on the board of a German-Russian consortium constructing a gas pipeline linking Russian gasfields with Western Europe.
An energy revolution is needed in Britain, Environment Secretary David Milliband will say today.
He is expected to use a speech in Birmingham to push the idea of making efficiency measures the main source of power companies’ profits.
The minister believes energy production can no longer continue as if it had no environmental cost.
With the world battling to reduce greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere, it makes no sense for generators’ profits to go up if they produce more emissions, he suggests.