We put a few, but fairly involved questions to Andrew Jones MP around the recent increases in energy costs, and the cost of living.
Q: The supply of gas in the UK is comprised of around 40% from the North Sea, 40% imported through a pipe through channel and 20% liquid gas via tankers. It has been said that the price increases are due to market forces. The UK has significant reserves of has (estimated at around £1 trillion, should the UK mine for more of that gas to ease the burden on the UK bill payer ?
A: Clearly extracting gas is a difficult and environmentally challenging process. It can also be controversial if methods include fracking which is banned in the UK although widely used in the United States and elsewhere. Gas supply and pricing is also affected by geo-political concerns. One has only to see the effect on gas prices of political turmoil around the world. The choice here should not be seen in terms of extracting more and more gas nationally or tolerating higher gas prices. We are transitioning to a net-zero economy, but there will still be a requirement for some fossil fuels during that transition. It makes sense to produce those domestically using the North Sea. Meeting our needs via imports only increases carbon emissions, especially during the shipping of the fuels.
It is important that we continue the journey to renewable energy generation including microgeneration to remove our dependency from fossil fuels. We also need to improve the energy efficiency of our buildings to lower the amount of wasted energy domestically. I support the moves the government is making to do that.
Q: There are plans to go Carbon Zero, do you think the plans are being pushed through too quickly and are damaging Britain ?
A: I support the moves to deal with climate change. The goal of meeting our net carbon zero commitments are part of international agreements and, although not all countries are moving as quickly as they should, I am pleased that the United Kingdom is showing leadership in this area. The whole net zero agenda gives massive opportunities to develop new and emerging technologies and the UK is ideally placed to develop and sell these. Encouraging local generation of electricity, energy conservation and reduction of carbon emissions is essential to prevent uncontrolled global warming. This is an area where we need to think globally.
Q: What roll should nuclear have in the production of electricity in the UK ?, considering that there has only been a single new Nuclear Power station built in recent times, at Dungeness, on the South coast with investment money (and controversial a guaranteed minimum bid price for its power)
A: Nuclear power is a low carbon source of energy and I support its use as part of the mix of energy sources in our country. The Government aims to bring at least one large-scale nuclear project to a Final Investment Decision (FID) by the end of this Parliament, subject to clear value for money for both consumers and taxpayers and all relevant approvals.
Q: What do you think about the actions that the government has taken or announced in this area so far ? Do you worry about your constituents having to choose between heating a home and eating ?
I do worry about people being about to afford their bills and that is why I support the package of measure so far brought forward. These measures are shielding the most vulnerable from the sudden spike in fuel costs and smoothing the increase in wholesale prices being passed on to the customer. All households in England will receive a £200 rebate on electricity costs from their supplier in October 2022. This will be clearly identifiable as a line on electricity bills and repaid over five years at a flat rate of £40 per year, with no interest, starting in April 2023 by which time it is expected that gas prices will have stabilised.
There will be a non-repayable £150 cash rebate for homes in Council Tax bands A to D The government will fund local authorities to give all households in England in Council Tax bands A-D a one-off council tax rebate of £150 in 2022-23. It is expected that the vast majority of people who pay by Direct Debit to receive the money in April. For people who do not pay by Direct Debit, their councils will be ready to process their claims in April. Eighty per cent of all households in England will benefit from the rebate.
In addition, £144 million of discretionary funding is being made available for councils to support households not eligible for the council tax rebate – including properties in bands A to D that are exempt from council tax, and households on lower incomes but in higher bands.
I supported the measures in the House when they were announced, because of their scale and targeting at those who need help most. This is a costed package of support alongside other measures such as the winter fuel payment for the elderly, cold weather payments during periods of freezing weather Warm Home Discount, which supports 2.2 million people with a £140 discount on their energy bills.