Monday, 26 November 2012

The £200bn gamble on our energy future


There is a simple way to think about the complex energy policy decisions made today: it is a £200bn bet on the UK's energy future. What's more, the money on the table belongs to you. Win or lose, every electricity and gas customer will pick up the tab for this wager for decades to come.

In such a high-rolling game, you would have hoped for cool heads. Instead, "unholy war" was waged behind the Westminster scenes, a senior participant told me. Worse, the boiling row within the coalition was driven as much by ideology and party politics as cold, hard facts. In fact, the opposing sides had "different facts", the source said.

All sides agreed on one thing at least. The problem the much-delayed energy bill seeks to solve is a fiendish one. It requires predicting the future and is not so much a dilemma as a trilemma. The solution must keep the lights on while simultaneously preventing energy bill payers from being fleeced and tackling the ever-growing dangers of climate change. Furthermore, we are not starting from a strong position. Two decades of under-investment in our energy infrastructure has left a dirty and decaying system.

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