Amid recent fears about blackouts, Chancellor George Osborne has highlighted that providing reliable energy is the job of the government.
Outlining his spending review yesterday, the politician declared to the Commons that the “job of the state” is to provide “reliable energy that enables business to grow”, as well as to provide schools, science and transport links.
He noted that by investing in the country’s economic infrastructure, the government is also investing in energy.
Mr Osborne also stated “now we provide guarantees for new nuclear”, which fuelled rumours surrounding a nuclear strike price.
“The energy of the future at a price we can afford”
The chancellor vowed to provide “the energy of the future at a price we can afford”, which will be welcome news for cash-strapped consumers who are struggling with rocketing energy bills.
He also talked up renewable spending, a North Sea gas industry that is “second to none” and a civil nuclear programme which is operating when other countries have been forced to discontinue theirs.
This comes amid reports that the UK could be subject to blackouts in as little as two years due to low energy reserves.
Rising risk of blackouts
Energy regulator Ofgem warned that Britain’s risk of electricity blackouts by 2015 is more serious than was previously thought.
The country’s spare electricity supply margin could plummet to 2% in 2015/16 – down from around 14%, where it currently stands. This is also lower than the 4% estimate given last year.
A report from the organisation warned: “Electricity supplies are set to tighten faster than previously expected in the middle of this decade.”
It added that the chance of supply disruptions would increase to one in 12 years in 2015/16 – up from one in 47 years, which is the current risk.
This heightened risk is in part due to the closure of a vast number of power plants due to emissions-reducing policies and gas fired plants increasingly losing money.
£100bn to modernise UK’s infrastructure
Today, plans for a £100 billion modernisation of the UK’s infrastructure was announced, which will go toward building new homes, road repairs and improved flood protection.
The package is also aimed towards boosting new sources of energy such as the much-hyped shale gas.
There will also be new support to assist with the building of new nuclear plants, including Hinkley Point in Somerset, a guaranteed price for offshore wind energy and tax incentives surrounding shale gas projects.
Earlier in the day, Mr Osborne told BBC Breakfast that shale gas was “environmentally safe”, and could provide “cheap energy” for the coming years. However, such projects have been slammed by environmental campaigners, and the chancellor acknowledged that these would need to get appropriate planning approvals.
However, shadow chancellor Ed Balls warned that most of these projects would not get off the ground for four years, and called for an immediate housing and transport boost this year and next.
Meanwhile, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas called for the government to prioritise jobs in renewable energy and energy efficiency, instead of ploughing its money into “polluting high-carbon infrastructure” like roads and shale gas.