Climate Change Minister Greg Barker has written an editorial in which he calls for environmentalists to accept that gas is “part of the answer” for managing the UK’s energy supply.
He also spoke about the need to open up the energy market to new entrants and suggested the dominance of the big six suppliers – British Gas, E.ON, EDF, npower, Scottish Power and SSE – is a result of the last Labour government’s policies.
In the piece, which was written for The Guardian and entitled “Gas isn’t the bogeyman”, the climate change minister defends the current energy strategy and warns that Labour’s plans would enhance the big six’s stranglehold on the energy market.
The big six currently supply almost 98% of British households.
‘Gas can be our ally’
Barker highlighted Denmark and the Netherlands as examples of nations which operate a competitive energy market. Each of these countries relies heavily on decentralised sources to supply their electricity needs. He underlined that the largest share of this decentralised energy was produced using gas.
He added that these examples were proof that “gas can be our ally” and dismissed claims the strategy was incompatible with current climate targets.
“If we are to scale up distributed energy and, at a time of a rising cost of living, ensure that energy bills are affordable, then over the medium term – in a way that is compatible with our climate targets – we will need more gas not less,” he said.
The minister also pointed out that coal, and not gas, should be main concern for environmentalists.
Strategy calls for ‘explosion in consumer choice’
Barker explained that the electricity market reforms (EMR) have been put in place to support independent energy providers, as well as new market entrants to “challenge the big six.” He added that the measures would only meet success if combined with an “explosion in consumer choice” led by communities and organisations generating their own energy and selling off surplus.
In his words: “Not just a few eco-exemplars – the big six need to become the big 60,000.
“This is a vision that happily unites the drive to get a better deal for hard pressed consumers with ambitions for a greener, more local energy sector. To achieve this we need a new generation of energy entrepreneurs and disruptive, local new entrants,” he added.