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Chris Huhne unveils plan for £110bn energy investment

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Media captionEnergy Secretary Chris Huhne: "We've had far too much dithering for far too long"

Plans for £110bn of investment in electricity generation have been unveiled in a White Paper by the Energy Secretary, Chris Huhne.

Under the plan, a quarter of the country's power stations would be replaced by 2030, Mr Huhne said.

It also aims to insulate the UK from swings in oil prices by increasing nuclear and renewable energy sources.

Shadow energy secretary Meg Hillier said the White Paper was a "mixed bag of measures".

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Huhne said: "We need to guarantee the future security of supply."

Earlier, Mr Huhne had told the BBC that claims the cost of the investments would hurt consumers were misplaced.

He pointed to recent rises in utility bills by British Gas and Scottish Power, claiming that these companies had already imposed a cost on consumers in one day similar to what the investment programme would involve over several years.

"[The White Paper] provides insurance for consumers against that sort of shock," he said.

Environmental campaign group Friends of the Earth welcomed the move to reduce the UK's reliance on fossil fuels, but said the proposals did not go far enough.

"The government must help insulate homes, get new companies to invest in renewable energy and support communities to generate their own power," said the group's executive director Andy Atkins.

'Keep the lights on'

A key recommendation of the paper is long-term price contracts with domestic nuclear power plants and offshore windfarms, in order to make electricity prices more stable.

The Department for Energy and Climate Change said that its investment plans would cost £160 per household per year by 2030.

In contrast, the Department said that if the system remained unchanged, then electricity bills would go up by £200 a year over the same period.

"It means that we keep the lights on," Mr Huhne told BBC Breakfast. "Because we are replacing a quarter of our clapped-out electricity generation."

The planned investment is equivalent to 20 large new power stations, double the pace seen in the last decade.

It aims to raise the share of renewable energy sources to 30% of electricity generation by 2030, from 7% currently. The government also foresees new nuclear power stations being built as well.

It would also see the building of new coal-powered generators with technology to capture carbon emissions, as well as new gas-fired power stations.

Natural gas is regarded as cleaner than other fossil fuels, and gas prices are expected to remain cheap thanks to the development of shale-gas deposits in the US, coupled with the growing international trade in liquefied natural gas.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said it had "serious concerns" about the impact of some of the reforms on the competitiveness of UK-based industries.

"The government must look at measures to help those industries whose competitiveness will be most affected by the UK's energy and climate change policies," the BCC said.

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