Keeping the lights on is a basic responsibility of Government.
For decades the UK has had the luxury of secure supplies of oil and gas from our domestic fields in the North Sea and the Atlantic Margin.
But those supplies are now dwindling at a time when demand for energy from developing nations such as India and China is growing, and global energy supplies are increasingly controlled by nations that we cannot always rely on to be friends. It is estimated that in barely a decade we may be importing up to 80% of our gas needs.
None of these pressures on our energy supply have cropped up overnight or unexpectedly. Any forward thinking Government would have planned to ensure that our aging power stations can be replaced in a timely manner, that the UK has a secure and diverse energy sector, and that we have sufficient strategic reserves of the basic energy sources our system of power generation relies on.
That’s why I was appalled to discover this week that, after 13 years of a Labour Government, the situation regarding natural gas storage is far worse that we had thought.
In January, there was much press speculation that UK gas reserves had dropped as low as eight days of supply. At the time this caused much concern, and unflattering comparisons with other EU countries such as France and Germany who each have the capacity to store 100 days or more.
But this week the Department for Energy and Climate Change revealed to me in a written answer that the UK may have dropped as low as a single day’s supply of natural gas this winter. This is little short of a scandal.
For thirteen years Labour failed to plan and prepare adequately, and as a result the UK remains more vulnerable to an interruption in our gas supplies than virtually any other European country. I hope the Coalition Government will now grip this situation firmly before the lights really do go out.