Urgent action is needed to get the long-awaited Energy Bill onto the statute books, or the UK’s lights may go out for good, according to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).
The warning came after this week’s Queen’s Speech, in which her Her Majesty unveiled 17 bills for the penultimate session of Parliament before the General Election takes place in two years’ time.
In the speech, the Queen made reference to the Energy Bill, but the time accorded to it by the coalition was insufficient, according to John Cridland, CBI director-general.
The Queen outlined the coalition’s plans for the Bill, which include the introduction of contracts for difference to provide predictable incentives for firms to invest in low-carbon generation.
Other measures include the creation of a capacity market to guarantee security of supply and incentives for consumers to reduce their electricity usage.
Taking too long
Despite these plans, Mr Cridland has criticised the length of time that has been taken to get the Energy Bill passed into law and says that if something is not done to hurry up the process, the lights could go out permanently in the UK.
“The Energy Bill’s journey has dragged on long enough – it is crucial for investors that it’s put on the statute books as soon as possible,” Mr Cridland commented.
“There is a lot of concern about the lights going out in the next few years – without this investment there is a danger they will go off and not come back on.”
Last year’s Queen’s Speech represented the introduction of the Energy Bill, which the government claimed would help to reform the electricity market and ensure cleaner and more affordable energy.
The idea behind the bill is to unlock more than £100 billion investment to revitalise the country’s ageing energy infrastructure and help to deliver cleaner sources of energy, with a specific focus placed on renewables.
However, government in-fighting between the Chancellor George Osborne and Energy Secretary Ed Davey has meant the introduction of the Energy Bill has stalled.
While Mr Osborne is more in favour of a “dash for gas” approach that focuses on fossil fuels, Mr Davey believes that placing the emphasis on renewables is the answer.
According to the CBI, any disputes within government need to be ironed out and common ground agreed on so that the Energy Bill can be finally passed into law, otherwise the impact on consumers, businesses and the country as a whole could be monumental.
“The UK needs £110 billion of private sector investment over the next decade to create long-term secure, low-carbon and affordable electricity supplies – generating growth and underpinning tens of thousands of jobs,” Mr Cridland explained.
The confederation argues that the country does not need “a raft of new bills” at this stage of a Parliament, as legislating the way to economic growth is unlikely to be successful.
Rather, laws should be one piece of the jigsaw, and with two years to go until the General Election, the coalition’s focus needs to be on delivering tangible measures that benefit businesses and consumers alike, Mr Cridland says.
The consequences of not doing so could be Britain’s lights going out – for good.