Mark Reckless is the Member of Parliament for Rochester and Strood and serves on the Home Affairs Select Committee. Follow Mark on Twitter.
Today marks a retreat from a triumph of the Thatcher
era. The Energy Bill we consider today
will rip up the world-leading competitive energy market bequeathed by Lady
Thatcher and Lords Parkinson and Spicer, her ministers who privatised
Instead we will institute a rigged market where the
government will pick technologies by allocating varying levels of subsidy on
the say-so of civil servants. In the main, rather than hand out taxpayer funds
directly, the government will authorise others to load charges on to
electricity bills. For EDF, the French state-owned company many see as the only
credible supplier of new nuclear plants, this could mean adding many tens of £billions
over the odds to our electricity bills, for decades to come, nodded through
with next to no further parliamentary scrutiny under the terms of this Bill.
When I took part in Any
Questions a few weeks ago I was astonished to hear other panellists airily
dismiss such costs, saying “it would only be an extra £100 a year” and that “it
will represent excellent value”, as if they never knocked on constituents’
doors . This budget-line – DECC’s levy-funded spending which the Office for
National Statistics commendably categorises as public spending despite it being
added to electricity bills – will rise almost five-fold from £2.1bn last year
to £9.8bn by 2020. That is an even faster rate of growth than for overseas aid
or our contribution to the EU budget!
Moreover, that is not even all the “green energy” related
spending, much of which seems to be hidden elsewhere. In the Autumn Statement
the Chancellor authorised an extra £16 or so on electricity bills to build
extra gas-fired power stations that would not usually need to be used, but
could be activated if there were capacity problems, e.g. if the wind does not
blow. This week OFGEM has told the National Grid it can add another £15 to
household bills (with £8.50 of it kicking in next year) to upgrade its
infrastructure – in addition to the £53 it is already imposing. A significant
proportion of this is to link renewable energy generation in rural areas to
larger population centres.
For families on limited incomes these continual
extra imposts add up. Every year more and more families fall into so-called
fuel poverty where more than 10% of income is spent on energy bills. MPs can
choose how to vote on legislation which will facilitate further such costs.
Some of our constituents will be choosing whether to heat the house or buy