On 23rd July 2013, the Bishop of Chester, the Rt Revd Peter Forster, spoke during the Committee Stage of the Government’s Energy Bill. He spoke during a debate on an amendment to develop the interconnectedness of European energy and electricity markets, focussing his remarks on the question of energy security.
The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, when I am in a really tedious meeting I sometimes flick to my iPhone if I succumb to the temptation. The Energywatch organisation has a splendid app which tells you exactly what electricity generation is going on at any particular moment. I can tell your Lordships that at this moment we are depending upon supplies from overseas of 7%, or 3 gigawatts. Wind is producing at the moment less than one sixth of that. Over time, I am struck by just what a significant proportion of our electricity already comes in that way. Three gigawatts is not nothing; it is a very significant amount.
When the Minister responds, it would be helpful to give some indication as to what security there is. I belong to those who have some anxieties that in three or four years’ time, if economic activity picks up and some outages occur at a couple of big stations that we are not expecting, and if the weather is very cold and the wind is not blowing, we are going to depend upon electricity coming from these interconnectors. We can depend on it only if we know that they will be available. If the weather is also inadvertent in other countries, what security do we have that the electricity will be available from other places? I am entirely with the view that we should have a European electricity market. That is absolutely right but it has to be with certain guarantees for supply in this country, especially when supply gets tight in a few years’ time.
The Lord Bishop of Chester (intervention of Government response): I raised a specific point about the extent to which existing capacity, which may get as high as 12 gigawatts, is taken into account in energy security. To what extent is the Government’s strategy on energy security dependent on the interconnection?
Baroness Verma: I apologise. I had a note for the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester, but I forgot to allude to it. The loss of supply from interconnection, like other forms of capacity, would be handled by the system operator in the same way as additional capacity would be sought through the National Grid’s balancing services. There would be a mechanism in place.
The Lord Bishop of Chester: The noble Baroness may want to write to me rather than answer now, but if supply gets tight under the scenario that Ofgem has said is possible—although we hope it will not come to that—does continuation of the Government’s current strategy at that point depend on the availability of electricity at a level between the current 4 gigawatts and the prospective 12 gigawatts?
Baroness Verma: My Lords, it might be wise for me to write in detail to the right reverend Prelate and the Committee with a fuller answer.