Planned reforms of the UK energy market have come under fire as being ‘potentially dangerous’ with ‘unpredictable consequences’ during the second reading debate in the House of Lords.
Shadow energy minister Baroness Worthington spearheaded the attack on the proposed legislation, saying that, instead of setting clearly defined outcomes for the market, the government is trying to ‘renationalise’ the energy policy, dictating almost every detail. She believes the outlined policy will only discourage investors and prolong the ‘investment hiatus’.
The Energy Bill is designed to reform the electricity market in an attempt to encourage low-carbon energy generation and maintain the country’s electricity supply stable.
According to energy minister Baroness Verma, the electricity demand is expected to double over the next 40 years and yet one-fifth of the country's generation capacity available in 2011 is set to close in the next decade.
In order to meet soaring energy needs as well as the obligations to reduce carbon emissions, the UK has to encourage investment in renewable energy infrastructure, she said.
However, her opponent, Lady Worthington, said the bill seems to have the main purpose of providing EDF Energy, the UK’s dominant electricity supplier, with enough incentive to build the new nuclear power plant in Hinkley Point. Despite acknowledging the importance of the project, Lady Worthington said the government should focus on securing multiple energy resources.
"The project will not be ready until the middle of the next decade and therefore cannot help address any security of supply concerns in the interim," she said.
On the other hand, the government’s proposal was welcomed by the former environment minister John Gummer, who said the bill not only promises to provide insurance against the advancing climate change, but also against the rising gas prices. "I don't want my children to be in the hands of [Russian president Vladimir] Putin's children," he said.
Prominent climate change sceptic Lord Lawson of Blaby expressed the opposite opinion, calling the bill the ‘worst energy bill within living memory.’
Former BP chief executive Lord Browne of Madingley said a decarbonisation target for 2030 would have "little impact". "Companies don't listen or react to long-term political aspirations because there are too many technological, economic and political unknowns for them to be taken seriously," he said, while at the same time urging Parliament to pass the legislation that has been debated for almost three years.
Viscount Ridley, a popular science writer, criticised the government's strategy, pointing to the USA, which has managed to cut carbon emissions far more than the UK primarily by shale gas replacing coal.
"By pursuing a strategy that encouraged unabated gas we could halve emissions at the same time. Instead, I very much fear we will find we have spent a fortune to achieve neither," he said.