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Alan Whitehead MP: “Govt complacency as British energy system in meltdown”

22 September 2021

The Prospect energy sector conference welcomed shadow energy minister, Alan Whitehead MP, where he spoke about the current gas energy crisis, government complacency and how we can get the UK energy system back on track.

Alan Whitehead MP addressing Prospect energy sector conference

Addressing Prospect’s energy reps, Mr Whitehead said it was “the largest group of energy experts that I’ve seen for a while in one room together.”

He began by talking about the gas energy crisis, which has been dominating the headlines.

“It’s the day that the British energy system went into meltdown. For two and a half days now we have been doing a lot of work talking to various people about the present energy situation and of course appearing in Parliament to hold ministers and the secretary of state to account.

“I think they have been appallingly complacent and fail to understand the gravity of the position. My worry stems from the fact that we have seen an unprecedentedly high spike in gas prices, up 200% in the last year and the government’s assumption appears to be this is just something that’s happening and it’s going to be okay tomorrow.”

The shadow energy minister said the biggest concern was that the government didn’t have any tools in place to combat the affects of the price rises in terms of protection for industry and customers.

Instead, the government had given new companies license to enter the energy market with no checks on their resources or business plans.

“This huge burgeoning of, at its height, about 75 companies. Those smaller companies are completely unhedged and have no background resources to call upon under these circumstances and will probably just go,” he said.

“We’ve got to have some kind of rescue arrangement for failed firms’ customers, an arrangement similar to Northern Rock when it was taken into public ownership. It needs to be done on the basis that customers are properly protected and the market doesn’t do this again.”

Greening the energy sector

Alan Whitehead MP

Alan Whitehead MP

Mr Whitehead also spoke about the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan, the greening of the energy sector and the race to Net Zero.

“It’s just a wishlist. We’ve no mechanisms to achieve anything. One of those things, for example, is a plan for insulating homes and indeed businesses and industrial workplaces, so that we are radically reducing emissions from the built environment.

“If we had an insulation programme that was halfway decent, people’s energy bills would probably be about £300 lower than they are at the moment.

“It’s about joining all the gaps together so we have energy efficiency, a reduction in demand, reliable supply, alongside the expansion of renewables to rebalance our energy system over the long-term.”

Nuclear

He also touched upon nuclear and said to get to Net Zero, nuclear would be needed as a base provider of energy.

“A very positive development is the redesign of Sizewell C into effectively a clone plant of Hinkley Point C, so that actually you can transfer most of the workforce and designs from Hinkley, as it gets completed, and put it down in Sizewell.

“So that plant should be much quicker to complete and much more straightforward and economical to finish. We’re certainly going to need those two power stations in the energy mix for the future.”

Before taking questions from the delegates, Mr Whitehead concluded:

“We’ve got good prospects ahead of us, but we are being badly let down by indecision and poor decision-making by the government through this period. We need to get our act together in a much sharper way to get out of this crisis and get ourselves firmly back on the road to an energy system which can thrive.”


Energy

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