Electricity Transmission (North Somerset)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:16 pm on 22nd March 2012.

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Photo of Charles Hendry Charles Hendry The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change 6:16 pm, 22nd March 2012

I thank my right hon. Friend Dr Fox for securing a debate on this important issue. I am grateful that he has done so. I agree with him that the need for, and impact of, electricity transmission infrastructure is, inevitably, a complex and sensitive issue. So I welcome the opportunity to explain the need for upgrading the existing transmission network, and to clarify the approach to deciding where and how new infrastructure is delivered and how this relates to North Somerset, in particular. I hope that I can also reassure him that many of the changes he has been calling for are already being put in place by this Government.

The Government are committed to meeting the UK’s climate change targets and maintaining energy security. Achieving those combined objectives represents a major challenge. The United Kingdom is increasingly dependent on fossil fuel imports, leaving us much more exposed to risks from rising global demand, limitations on production, supply constraints and price volatility. At the same time, we expect to lose about a quarter of our existing electricity generation capacity by 2020, as old or more polluting generating plant closes.

My right hon. Friend rightly referred to the future costs of energy, and that is certainly an important consideration, however security of supply and reducing the carbon impact of generation are also important factors. That is why we need a mix of energy going forward. It is not for the Government to prescribe how much of each generation source is required, but we are setting the framework for delivering the appropriate energy mix through, for example, our proposals for electricity market reform.

I welcome my right hon. Friend’s support for nuclear generation. I wish to take the opportunity to reiterate its vital role in securing our energy future—we want it to be part of the future energy mix. The UK has everything to gain from being the No. 1 destination to invest in new nuclear. Nuclear is the cheapest low-carbon source of electricity around, so it keeps bills down and the lights on.