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Colvile OliverOliver Colvile is Member of Parliament for Plymouth Sutton & Devonport. Follow Oliver on Twitter.

Last month, the much respected economist and journalist Ruth Lea wrote an article for ConservativeHome on the Government’s proposals to use renewable energy to meet the potential energy crisis facing the UK.

Soon after this, 100 Conservative colleagues signed a letter opposing the building of wind farms in our countryside.

In claiming that the Government is wrong to pursue such a strategy, I believe that Ruth Lea is failing to recognise that today almost 25% of the UK’s generation (20GW) comes from ageing coal and atomic power stations which will be retired over the next eight years.

By 2025 this challenge will increase by 30%.  Whilst we need new power stations to fill the gap, the first nuclear plant will not be expected to be operating until 2019 at the earliest.  Sadly we don’t have enough time to build additional power stations and even if we did such acceleration will ramp up the costs; nor do we have enough skilled technicians.


With UK gas production being expected to largely be gone by the end of this decade, we will have little choice but to rely upon energy production from Russia and Qatar. We should remember that in 2005 the Russian Government turned off the taps to put pressure on the Ukrainian Government. Do we really want to find ourselves hostage to the Russian Bear?

One little known fact is that when oil prices go up so does the cost of gas. That is why gas bills for the average voter has doubled over the last ten years and electricity bills have increased by around 40%.

Already 40% of our electricity is from gas of which 50% is imported.

Unless we are very careful, Britain faces an impending energy crisis.  We desperately need to find alternative energy sources.  This is why I fully support the Government’s renewable initiatives from wind and tides.

Unfortunately the last Labour Government failed to produce an energy strategy to meet our future energy needs, didn’t embark on a nuclear programme and didn’t have a solution for when our North Sea Reserves run down. 

Last month Greg Barker announced that the south-west peninsular – including my own Plymouth Sutton & Devonport constituency – would be the home of England’s marine energy park.  With 30% of the UK’s coastline it is well suited to deliver much needed energy from renewables.

Whilst I have an enormous amount of respect for Ruth Lea, I fear that her claims that wind is more expensive than other technologies may be based on some “double counting”.

Detailed analysis claims that low carbon generation from renewable is low cost and provides value for money.

Her claim that wind farms emit more C02 emissions than other sources ignores the fact that lifecycle C02 emissions for wind and nuclear are broadly equivalent and significantly less than their thermal counterparts.

Unless we find alternative ways of generating energy we run the very real risk that the lights will be going off all over the UK – which could be a real electoral disaster for our party and the country.

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