Truss makes case for increasing energy production amid criticism of winter plans

Truss makes case for increasing energy production amid criticism of winter plans

Increasing energy production in the UK is necessary to prevent further crises, Liz Truss said, as she sought to reassure the country that “we will get through this winter”.

The Government is resisting calls for it to encourage people to reduce their overall energy use, amid warnings of a heightened risk of blackouts, the prospect for which still remains “unlikely” according to the National Grid.

Climate minister Graham Stuart said “we’re not a nanny-state Government”, and suggested instead of telling people what to do, he and his colleagues would prefer to explore options over how to reward businesses and smart meter consumers to reduce energy use at peak times if capacity issues were to arise.

Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg signed off on a £15 million public information campaign only for the plan to be ruled out by Prime Minister Liz Truss, according to a report in The Times.

But Mr Stuart said “I don’t recognise that”, when the issue was put to him during a series of broadcast interviews on Friday.

Labour shadow climate change secretary Ed Miliband said: “It is entirely sensible to give the public factual information about how they can save money on energy bills.

“Blocking it because of ideological dogma is another failure piled on 12 years of Tory failed energy policy for which the British people are paying the price.”

CEO of Utilita Energy, Bill Bullen, said the climate minister’s comments were “highly irresponsible and hazardous”.

“If our own climate minister can’t see the importance of helping homes to cut energy wastage –  a move that would speed up the country’s journey towards net-zero by two years – we are doomed,” he said.

The Government has also drawn criticism for beginning a licensing round for new oil and gas exploration in the North Sea.

But the Prime Minister argued increasing UK production across fossil fuels, nuclear and renewables is needed to avoid future energy crises.

In a string of tweets on Friday, Ms Truss said: “We have taken decisive action to support households and businesses with their energy costs – and we’re working to make sure the United Kingdom is never in this position again by tackling the root cause of the energy crisis.

“That means producing more energy here at home.

“To secure our long-term energy supply and reduce reliance on authoritarian regimes, we’re accelerating our domestic energy production, including launching a new North Sea oil and gas licensing round.

“We’re also speeding up deployment of renewables, including hydrogen, solar and wind.

“Yesterday I held discussions with our allies on progressing Sizewell C and building more nuclear power stations.

“We’re also working to get better prices for people now – our energy supply taskforce is negotiating new long-term agreements with gas suppliers.

“Together, we will get through this winter, grow our economy and secure our energy independence for the future.”

Green Party co-leader Adrian Ramsay said keeping global warming to 1.5C requires leaving fossil fuels “in the ground”, and that any new production, even if fast-tracked, would not be available for years and so would not help to address the current crisis.

“The Government’s claim that burning ever more fossil fuels from the North Sea will help the UK meet its international obligations to become net-zero by 2050 has no connection to reality,” he said.

On Thursday, the National Grid Electricity System Operator warned households and businesses might face planned three-hour outages to ensure the grid does not collapse. But it described such a scenario as “unlikely”.

Mr Stuart said the UK’s energy security is “pretty strong”.

But the climate minister did not rule out the need for energy rationing this winter when pressed on LBC, despite Ms Truss having done so when she was running for the Tory leadership.

“We are not planning to have that. It is not our intention to have it and we are doing everything possible to mean that it should not happen,” he told LBC, while acknowledging an apparent change in position, saying “events move on”.

But the climate minister insisted that due to the nature of the energy system the Government’s message is not to reduce overall consumption this winter, while acknowledging in an interview with BBC Breakfast that “all of us have bills, of course, and the bills have gone up”.

He told Sky news: “The last thing you want to do is tell someone, you know, ‘switch things off for the national need’ when it makes no difference to the national security position.

“In other countries it’s more about reducing overall energy use. For us, it’s not so much about that, it’s about reducing the demand at time of peak,” he added, when speaking to LBC.

“We’ve worked with Ofgem and National Grid and others to make sure we’ve got the maximum flex we can, in the very unlikely scenario there was a supply shortage.”

Philip Evans, energy transition campaigner for Greenpeace UK, said: “New oil and gas licences won’t lower energy bills for struggling families this winter or any winter soon nor provide energy security in the medium term.

“New licences – and more importantly more fossil fuels – solve neither of those problems but will make the climate crisis even worse.”