On Thursday I gave a speech on energy security to the Institute for Public Policy Research.
We should be worried. Despite the UK’s emerging energy dependence, Labour have no strategy for the future security of our energy supply.
In a vague way, Tony Blair noticed that there was a problem. In 2006 he said that ‘in the future, energy security will be almost as important as defence to the overall security of a country’s interest’. But Labour have never developed a strategy.
In the long term, the UK has to go green to be energy secure. But for all Labour’s talk about greenery and wind farms, there has been no real progress in reducing the UK’s carbon dependence. And the recession makes it more difficult to fund the necessary investment for diversification.
Last month my colleague, Greg Clark, launched the Party’s Low Carbon Economy Green Paper. This set out our plan for achieving a decarbonised economy by 2050. It proposed long-term policies, which promote much greater efficiency in energy usage, carbon capture and storage, renewables and the decentralisation of energy generation.
But in the short and medium term, before we have a low carbon economy, the UK is vulnerable to politically inspired disruption of supply and we face the real risk of shortages.
Russia’s action in halting supplies to Ukraine, and its effect on Europe, is a case in point. So even though we have gas contracts with a reliable partner, Norway, with our contract terms – purchase on the spot market – security of supply is not absolute. One of the protections we need against these situations is adequate storage to see us through. But our storage capacity is feeble – while Germany has 99 days of gas storage capacity, and France has 122 days, Britain has at present just 15 days.
So I do not need to tell you that keeping the lights on is a key part of our national security. In my speech, I set out three specific things a Conservative Government would do alongside alongside our decarbonisation strategy:
- The National Security Council would have a remit to monitor the availability of key commodities, including energy, and the state of our critical infrastructure. As part of this we would increase storage capacity;
- Energy security would be among the FCO’s highest priorities;
- And we would promote a coherent energy policy in the EU and look to NATO to take on the task of securing vital shipping lanes.
You can read my full speech: Securing our energy supplies.