Christopher Booker: We’ll Slash Your Bills – But It Will Cost You More

  • Date: 02/12/12

The Government may have cleverly timed the publication of its Energy Bill on Thursday to coincide with the release of the Leveson Report, in the hope that this would be a good way to bury bad news – but if few people understand the Bill, supposedly heralding the greatest revolution in our energy policy for a generation, this is because we aren’t intended to understand it.

Ed Davey’s Thursday statement, headed “An Energy Bill to power low-carbon economic growth, protect consumers and keep the lights on”, must have been the most opaque pile of gobbledygook ever delivered to Parliament. The only thing that can be said for certain about this master plan is that it is not going to achieve any of its three declared intentions.

In essence, what the Government is proposing is to make the fossil-fuel energy that currently provides 70 per cent of our electricity so expensive that it will make those ludicrously subsidised windmills look competitive. The coal-fired power stations which on Thursday were providing nearly half our electricity (against only 1.5 per cent from wind) are to be put out of business. In addition to the £100 billion the Government wants us to spend on useless windmills, we will have to pay tens of billions more for infinitely more efficient gas-fired power plants, firstly to keep our lights on when the wind is not blowing, but also, when the wind is blowing, to be kept inefficiently idling, running at a hefty loss (and, incidentally, chucking out more CO₂ than when they are running properly).

All this we will have to pay for, coupled with the tens of billions more we are to be charged for “energy saving” measures and “smart meters” to cut down our electricity use. Yet somehow, according to Mr Davey, “the average household bill will be £94 lower in 2020 than it would be without low-carbon energy policies being pursued”.

This is pure insanity. It will only “power low-carbon economic growth” in the sense that it will pour billions of pounds into the pockets of the foreign-based companies that make those useless wind turbines. By doing everything to dis-incentivise the fossil-fuel power production that currently supplies more than two-thirds of our needs, it will scarcely help to keep our lights on. And it will in no way “protect consumers”, rather rigging our energy market in favour of the most inefficient and costly way of producing electricity ever devised.

Just how dishonest this whole exercise in deception (and self-deception) has become is illustrated by the final bland little sentence of Mr Davey’s statement, which reminds us that, as from next April, the Government has “already legislated” to impose a hefty and fast-rising tax on all “carbon emissions” which on its own will add (for reasons explained here before) further billions a year to our electricity bills until, within 17 years, it has doubled them.

Meanwhile, hypnotised by the green lobby’s phobia about fossil fuels, Mr Davey wholly ignored the biggest elephant in the room: the shale gas revolution which in America has already more than halved gas prices in four years and brought down US “carbon emissions” to their level in 1990. But thanks to pressure from Owen Paterson, the new Environment Secretary, there is at last a chance that we can exploit our own shale gas reserves, enough to provide us with cheap, efficient energy for hundreds of years. If we do somehow manage to keep our lights on, it will be no thanks to Mr Davey.

The Sunday Telegraph, 2 December 2012