Sparks to fly in parliament over new energy law

Marion Dakers
IN A political spat that risks generating more heat than light, MPs will this week debate the latest version of the controversial Energy Bill.

Tory MP and energy committee chairman Tim Yeo has put forward several changes to the bill that would impose tougher rules on coal and gas power stations and commit to drastic cuts to carbon emissions by 2030.

A number of Liberal Democrat and Labour politicians are expected to back the amendments when the bill is put before parliament tomorrow.

But energy secretary Ed Davey, a Lib Dem, yesterday urged MPs to defeat Yeo’s changes, stressing in a blog post that a carbon target has been pencilled in for legislation in 2016, after the general election.

And some business groups including the CBI and Energy UK have criticised the last-minute alterations, which they say are creating dangerous delays to projects needed to replace Britain’s ageing power sources.

“Debates about the effect of including a target in the bill should not be allowed to prevent critical policy details being tied down. Vital investment decisions are hanging in the balance,” said CBI chief policy director Katja Hall.

Yeo proposed the changes to the third reading of the bill after chancellor George Osborne pushed to ditch a firm target on carbon emissions, in a bid to allow the UK’s gas supplies to play a bigger role in power generation.

Yeo told Sky News yesterday that gas projects will continue to help power Britain, but “undoubtedly, we also need to have some nuclear and we need to go on investing in low carbon renewables”.

In December, Osborne set out tax breaks for shale gas companies and proposed up to 37GW of new gas-powered plants, which environmental groups said could come at the expense of greener power sources.

Research by consultancy AT Kearney has found that the UK could spend £40bn less than planned on its energy strategy while hitting carbon targets it if turns to gas instead of alternative power sources, according to the Sunday Times.