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Nuclear Power

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:16 pm on 22nd October 2002.

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Photo of Mr Brian Wilson Mr Brian Wilson Minister of State (Industry and Energy), Department of Trade and Industry 8:16 pm, 22nd October 2002

That is a fair point. The problems of British Energy are complex—[Laughter.] This is weird.

The central point about NETA and the price of electricity is that no form of generator can indefinitely produce electricity at a price higher than what the market is paying. In fact, it does not matter what the commodity is; the principle still applies.

In the context of this debate, what I find puzzling is why the Liberal Democrats or anyone else should say that that argument is the death knell for nuclear power. By the same token, it would be the death knell for renewables. We recognise that, and the whole House agrees. The renewables obligation is a mechanism enabling renewables to be freed, for excellent reasons, from precisely that trap.

In conclusion, all the issues have to be brought together in the White Paper. Essentially, there are three imperatives of energy policy. First, we must deliver the security of supply that our people are entitled to expect; secondly, we must meet our post-Kyoto environmental targets and obligations; and thirdly, we must deliver affordable energy to households and to industry. This debate and others clearly demonstrate that reconciling those three objectives may be difficult, but it is a central challenge of policy making in the UK.

In many ways, competitive markets are working. In 1998, we passed legislation to create a competitive and liberalised electricity industry that has improved the way in which the electricity and gas industries operate and are regulated in the UK and the early creation of a truly competitive single European energy market remains our priority. It is worth noting that in the competitive market some 900,000 accounts a month are being switched. That is a remarkable degree of churn.