Energy and Climate Change – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 25th February 2010.
How much additional gas storage capacity he expects to become available in the UK by 2012.
National Grid's recent "Ten Year Statement 2009" expects just over 0.5 billion cubic metres of additional gas storage capacity to be commissioned by 2011-12, or an addition of more than 10 per cent. to capacity, including Aldbrough, which will be the second largest facility in the country. In addition, 20 other projects are planned for completion beyond that date, including the Gateway project, which will provide 1.5 billion cubic metres of extra capacity by 2014. That storage capacity is on top of the increase in import capacity in recent years, representing 125 per cent. of annual demand.
But in layman's language, does that not mean that there will be just two days of additional gas storage available by the end of 2012? At a time when we are hugely dependent on imports, is the Secretary of State satisfied that that is sufficient?
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman was present for the energy security debate in the House some weeks ago, but Greg Clark discovered in that debate and through asking other questions that simply quoting storage numbers when we have the North sea, import capacity and liquefied natural gas facilities tells only a small part of the story. Indeed, the National Grid dismissed his statistics as a "meaningless number". We do need more storage capacity, but the most important thing is changing the planning system. We are doing that through the Infrastructure Planning Commission, which will now be responsible for onshore wind. The suggestions of Mr. Mackay would best be directed at those on his Front Bench, who oppose our reforms in relation to the Infrastructure Planning Commission.
The Secretary of State will be well aware of the major contribution, certainly over the past few months, of the two LNG import terminals in Pembrokeshire and the Isle Of Grain in Kent. Up to 27 per cent. of annual consumption is provided through those terminals. Bearing in mind the future reduction of North sea capacity, and the possible risks of the continental connection, will the Secretary of State talk to the Crown Estate, with which the UK gas storage association is having major difficulties in reaching agreement about offshore storage?
My hon. Friend has made two important points. The first was about LNG facilities. I can tell him that the LNG facility at Milford Haven, which was not in operation last year, currently meets about 10 per cent. of total UK gas demand. That is one of the ways we are meeting our gas needs as the supply from the North sea declines. As for my hon. Friend's second point, although the Crown Estate is independent from Government, we continue to think about the issues involved. The recent licensing of the Gateway project suggests that they can be dealt with.
The right hon. Gentleman agrees that we need more gas storage. Can he tell us how many days' supply we have at this moment?
There are different estimates. It depends whether we take account of the North sea, LNG facilities, and the fact that medium-range storage can be refilled.
The hon. Gentleman tried this in January, when we experienced very cold weather. It was not me but National Grid that said he was producing a "meaningless number". I can tell him that alarmism about energy security does him, and political debate, no good at all.
I should have thought that the Secretary of State would inform himself of the day-to-day storage levels. For 18 months the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee, chaired by my hon. Friend Peter Luff, has been warning that we need more gas in storage. Let me give the Minister the answer that he was unable to give me. As of last night, we have three days' worth of gas in storage. That is the lowest level for many years, despite the fact that as imports increase we need a greater security margin. Other countries have more storage, Ofgem says we need more storage, and the Select Committee says we need more storage. Does the Secretary of State agree that it is time the Government had a policy on what our security margin should be?
The strange thing about the hon. Gentleman is that, although he talks a lot about gas storage, he has not one single policy in favour of having more of it. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman asks me, from a sedentary position, what my policy is. The single most important policy that we are pursuing relates to the Infrastructure Planning Commission, which will deal with one of the biggest gas storage issues that we face by reforming planning. What is the hon. Gentleman's policy on the Infrastructure Planning Commission? His policy is to abolish it, and that says all we need to know. Once again, the Conservative party's policy has not been thought through, and they are not ready for government.