Question Time: Climate Change

A panel led by Secretary of State Chris Huhne and Foreign Secretary William Hague answered questions on climate change from an international audience on 8 November.

Chris Huhne, Ambassador Mxakato-Diseko and William HagueThe Question Time: Climate Change event linked audiences of young people in the UK and South Africa, host of the UN COP17 Climate Summit, and was webcast live to an international audience.

The panel answered questions on a range of topics, including the UK’s policies to cut its own emissions, COP 17 in Durban and the role of governments and wider society in the international negotiations, and how young people across the world can engage in the climate debate.

Ahead of the UN COP17 Climate Summit in Durban, beginning on 28 November, an international conversation is continuing on how the world responds to the threat of climate change.

Young people will face the risks and opportunities brought by climate change, and are a vital voice in the debate. The Question Time: Climate Change event, at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London, was an opportunity to join that conversation.  

Joining the Secretary of State and Foreign Secretary were Ambassador Mxakato-Diseko, South Africa’s Climate Ambassador, and Martin Davidson, Chief Executive at the British Council. Television presenter Rick Edwards chaired the discussion and put questions from the international audience to the panel.

Secretary of State for Climate Change Chris Huhne said:

"It’s hugely important young people’s voices on climate change are heard and I’m really pleased so many took part in the Question Time event. Making the shift to a low carbon economy in the UK will create new markets and exciting job opportunities for the next generation as well as providing a more sustainable future.

"We pledged we’d be the greenest government ever, so as well as the action we’re taking at home we’ll be working for further progress towards a global deal at the next international climate talks at Durban in South Africa later this month."

Foreign Secretary William Hague added:

"Climate change is perhaps the twenty-first century’s biggest foreign policy challenge. We all have a responsibility to tackle this threat and the decisions we take now will have a profound effect on future generations.

"Young people in the UK and across the world play a critical role in the climate debate, and it is essential that their opinions are heard through events such as this. As we approach Durban, we all have an important duty to show the next generation the leadership needed to build international consensus on this vital issue."


Chris Huhne article on shale gas for the Daily Telegraph

Two months ago, an unlisted energy company released an initial estimate of UK shale gas reserves. Cue protesters picketing my department, and suggestions that Britain should tear down its wind farms and move the pound to a mythical “shale standard”.

As ever, behind lurid headlines lurks a little truth. The announcement by Cuadrilla Reserves that there could be 200 trillion cubic feet of gas in the shale under Lancashire could, if the volumes are proven and the reserves recovered, change Britain’s energy market. But a golden age of cheap energy looks increasingly unlikely – and wind turbines are certainly here to stay.

Natural gas is a critical part of our energy mix today, as it will be tomorrow, and beyond 2030. As old coal and nuclear power stations shut down, gas can provide flexible and reliable backup electricity to complement the next generation of renewable energy. Gas is also the primary fuel we use to heat our homes, and will remain so until well into the 2020s.

It is the cleanest fossil fuel; with carbon capture and storage technology, it can provide a significant amount of low-carbon electricity in the long term, too.
This year, for the first time ever, we imported more gas – whether piped from Norway or shipped from Qatar – than we pumped from our own continental shelf. We are keen that the market continues to invest in the capacity, storage and infrastructure to support our import needs, and are working with Ofgem to sharpen the incentives to ensure that suppliers can meet demand.

This stability is important, because energy security matters. What happened in the Ukraine in 2009, when industry and the economy were hit by a major disruption to supplies, must not happen here. But it comes at a cost. Wholesale energy prices are volatile. World gas prices are up 40 per cent in a year, and half of the average household bill goes on wholesale gas and electricity costs.

As Ofgem has made clear, such higher gas prices are the real reason heating and electricity bills have been going up over the past eight years.

Our projections show that gas-fired electricity could remain cost-competitive through to 2030 and beyond, particularly if the price falls significantly below that of oil. In the US, vast reserves of “unconventional” shale gas have changed everything, cutting gas prices to half of European levels.

Some therefore argue that we should abandon everything else and devote ourselves wholly to shale. But we cannot second-guess the market.

Shale gas has not yet lit a single room in the UK, nor roasted a single Sunday lunch. Yet those who clamour loudest for “realistic” energy policies would have us hitch our wagon to shale alone.

We don’t yet know the full extent of the shale gas in the UK. We don’t know how economically or environmentally viable it will be to extract.

At best, it is years away. As last week’s report on the Lancashire earthquakes showed, there remain issues to be addressed about hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”. And Britain is not the US. Our planning and regulatory frameworks, and our land ownership laws, are quite different: in particular, underground oil or gas does not belong to the landowner, but to the Crown.

Yes, shale gas may be significant. If it comes good, we must be ready to take advantage of it. That is why we need a diverse and balanced energy portfolio; to provide us with secure and affordable heat and electricity for decades to come.
Just as with our gas supply, diversity of sources increases our energy security: renewables, fossil fuels and nuclear are not mutually exclusive. They work together to make our energy system more resilient.

Our aim is a policy that is technology-neutral. We want to encourage competitive tension between all forms of generation, so that we get the best deal for the consumer. So we are reforming the electricity market, to allow us to use whatever blend of low-carbon energy turns out to be cheapest.

Government should not pick winners. A White Paper from 2004 estimated that oil would reach $23 per barrel by 2010; last year, another forecast predicted oil at $80 per barrel. Brent Crude is currently trading at $110. If we were to tie ourselves to one big bet, we would run unacceptable risks with our future.

The Coalition came to power to push out the horizons of government: no more short-term, all-or-nothing bets with taxpayers providing the stake. Instead, we should do what any canny investor does: spread the risk by investing in an energy portfolio flexible enough to withstand the high winds of global commodity markets. That is what our proposals for reform of the electricity market are designed to deliver: secure and affordable energy for British consumers, on the way to a cleaner, greener future.

Every national scientific academy in the world agrees: climate change is a real and growing threat. We face ambitious, legally binding carbon emissions and renewable energy targets. Yes, gas will help us meet them. But we should not bet the farm on shale.

Chris Huhne is the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.


Renewable energy highlighted in visit to South West

Energy Minister Charles Hendry visited the South West of the country today to highlight renewable energy related activity and investment in the region.

At a Business “Mini Expo” Charles was shown a snapshot of what Bristol was doing, from Marine energy to sustainable banking and biomass.

The Minister also heard views from Expo participants on

before taking part in a roundtable discussion to hear more thoroughly what Renewable Industry representatives had to say.

At Tidal Generation Limited (TGL), the Bristol based Rolls-Royce subsidiary, Charles met with key staff and was shown the control room which operates the company's tidal stream turbine in Orkney. The Tidal Turbine exports power to feed in to the National Grid and so far has has successfully generated and fed over 100 megawatt hours (MWh) of electrical power.

Charles Hendry in the Tidal Turbine control room, Tidal Generation Ltd.

Image: Charles Hendry in the Rolls Royce Tidal Turbine control room. (Image courtesy of Rolls Royce)

Before leaving the region, Charles met with Oxford and Bristol University academics at the opening of a new Nuclear Research Centre at the University of Bristol. The Centre was created in response to the increase in interest and demand from students in the field of Nuclear, not least because new nuclear build provides significant job creation opportunities in the UK.

Based on recent analysis it is estimated there will be up to 30,000 new jobs created by new nuclear build (which includes jobs in the supply chain and construction sectors, together with numbers needed for operation) by 2025. It is envisaged that at its peak each power plant including twin reactors will create up to 5000 construction jobs.

At the launch of the Centre, Charles Hendry said

“This centre will ensure that the UK remains the vanguard in deploying the next generation of new nuclear power stations across Europe and ensures that the UK and the local economy can derive maximum benefit from these opportunity...

“There is great potential in the growth of the UK Nuclear Industry. But we are all very aware that 70% of the current UK nuclear workforce is set to retire by 2025 and realise the challenges and skills gaps that this will bring to an industry set to grow. These are highly skilled jobs and Research Centres like this one are key to ensuring that we can meet the quality and capacity of skills that industry will need, to deliver such an ambitious programme.

“We must ensure that the UK has the appropriately skilled workforce to deliver a strong nuclear industry that is safe, professional and cost effective. Centres like this one with strong relationships with Industry, the Regulators and the local communities will help ensure that we can do this.”

Charles Hendry's Written Ministerial Statement on the statutory Security of Supply report

I have today laid before Parliament the 2011 Statutory Security of Supply Report (SSSR), which has been produced jointly with Ofgem and with input from National Grid. The report is a technical document that provides factual information to the market on security of supply. The report covers electricity, gas and oil. The latter is not a statutory requirement but is included for completeness.

I have placed a copy of this report in the Libraries of the House. In addition, I am also publishing today a risk assessment produced for the purpose of the EU Security of Gas Supply Regulation 994/2010. This is available on the DECC website.

Huhne asks Ofgem to report on longer term gas security

Energy regulator Ofgem has been asked by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to look into whether further action is needed to ensure that medium- to long-term gas supplies for consumers remain secure.

In the short term, gas supplies are relatively secure and the wholesale gas market in Britain has a strong track record in attracting significant private investment. More than £10 billion has been invested in new gas importation facilities over the past 10 years. But as Britain’s indigenous gas supplies decline and dependency on gas imports increases, consumers will increasingly be exposed to the global gas market for their gas supplies.

Chris Huhne, Energy Secretary, said:

“As our old coal and nuclear power stations shut down, gas can provide flexible and reliable backup electricity to complement the next generation of renewable and nuclear energy. Our analysis shows that it is likely to remain significant beyond 2030 – particularly with commercial carbon capture and storage.

“Energy security is at the heart of our energy policy but we should never be complacent, and that’s why I’ve asked Ofgem to look into whether further action is needed to ensure that medium- to long-term gas supplies for consumers remain secure.”

Ofgem Chief Executive, Alistair Buchanan, said:

“In 2010 Ofgem’s Project Discovery identified a range of issues in both the gas and electricity markets given the need to find £200 billion of investment between now and 2020.

“Project Discovery also identified the challenges posed by Britain’s growing exposure to a volatile global gas market. We have seen this recently where political instability in the Middle East and the impact of Fukushima have helped push up wholesale gas prices for this winter by 40%. We therefore welcome the Secretary of State’s decision to commission Ofgem to look at the rapidly changing gas supply situation for Britain and whether further measures are needed to secure supplies.”

Ofgem has also today announced a draft decision to increase security of supply incentives to suppliers to help strengthen the existing arrangements, and it will now be looking at what further measures may be needed.

This announcement comes as DECC and Ofgem today published to Parliament the Annual Statutory Security of Supply Report. The report is being published ahead of the statutory deadline of year-end to ensure the market has timely and credible information ahead of the cold weather.

The analysis in the report suggests that in the short-to-medium term the UK gas supply infrastructure is resilient. There are, however, challenges in the medium-to-long term.

In the same report, National Grid project that peak electricity demand will remain relatively stable at around 60 gigawatts (GW), although there is a range of sensitivities around this central case.

In addition, DECC has published a risk assessment on gas security of supply, as required by the EU Regulation on Security of Gas Supply.

Notes for editors

  1. Ofgem has already been considering how incentives on the industry to deliver security of gas supplies can be improved through its Gas Security of Supply Significant Code Review. It has today published further proposals for consultation and this document is available from the Ofgem website.
  2. Ofgem is the Office of the Gas and Electricity Markets, which supports the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority – the regulator of the gas and electricity industries in Great Britain. The authority's powers and duties are largely provided for in statute, principally the following Acts as well as arising from directly effective European Community legislation: 
  • Gas Act 1986
  • Electricity Act 1989
  • Utilities Act 2000
  • Competition Act 1998
  • Enterprise Act 2002

3. Joint Statutory Security of Supply document
4. Risk assessment on gas security of supply
5. Charles Hendry's Written Ministerial Statement


Shell Gannet field update: SOSREP announces successful removal of gas from pipeline

Further to the update issued on 30 September 2011, this is a statement by Mr Hugh Shaw, the Secretary of State’s Representative (SOSREP) for Maritime Salvage and Intervention, who was appointed by the UK Government to oversee the operation:

"I am pleased to announce that the latest phase to remove gas trapped in the Gannet pipeline has been successful. Shell’s surveys show that almost all the gas has been removed, significantly increasing the stability of the 4km pipeline.

"The final stage of this operation is now to remove the trapped oil and over the next few months Shell will submit their proposed plans to me for approval.

"There will be full dialogue with Department of Energy and Climate Change, the Scottish Operational Environment Group, the Scottish Government, the Marine and Coastguard Agency and the Health and the Safety Executive before any plans are agreed.

"Given the technical nature of this operation, we do not expect the final phase to begin before next spring.

"Shell has advised they plan to restart operations at the Gannet A platform soon, following its planned shutdown in August for maintenance. The start-up will have no impact on the Gannet F pipeline, which has been physically isolated.

"No pollution was sighted during the gas venting operation and the joint DECC and HSE investigation into the cause of the incident continues."

Related links

Greg Barker's article in the New Statesman

Gone are the days of governments banging on about the green economy divorced from the challenges facing the rest of business and without any reference to what was happening in the real economy.

The truth is that businesses – especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) – are finding it hard to make ends meet at the moment. These really are tough times. And the last thing that companies need is more Whitehall greenwash rammed down their throats.

We need a new low carbon reality. One which sees green business – and the effort to reduce emissions – as part of the wider success of the economy. One in which efforts to improve resource efficiency and drive down carbon emissions underpin, rather than compromise, the competitiveness of the British economy.

That reality lies at the heart of this coalition's approach to Britain's low carbon transition.

Business is right to demand certainty and direction from government. And that's what this coalition is determined to provide. My mantra is give business plenty of TLC – transparency, longevity and certainty. It's what guides our policy making and is vital to establishing a successful prosperous green economy.

As part of our wider growth effort and work to rebalance the economy, we want a successful green economy in the UK, moving away from our dependence on expensive fossil fuels to a future powered by low carbon energy and green technologies. This shift of course represents challenges but also a massive business opportunity with tens of billions of pounds of investment needed and green job opportunities up for grabs over the next decade.

The green economy isn't just an economy for big companies. Businesses of all shapes and sizes will be at the forefront of this drive. Success will require great innovation and technological progress – one of the key attributes of Britain's SME sector.

And I know for myself that there are already many great British firms that are stealing a march on this global low carbon revolution and are at the forefront of green tech innovation. I want this to continue and it is up to this coalition to create the right conditions to allow them to thrive and prosper.

Firstly, despite the massive deficit we inherited, the coalition is investing billions of pounds of public money into the low carbon transition.

Not just throwing money at the problems but investing smartly, with rigour and in ways that leverage in the maximum private sector investment and create opportunities for our businesses.

We are putting £3bn into the Green Investment Bank as well as £860m to support renewable heat, stimulating investment in green heat technologies by a massive £7.5bn by 2020. Hundreds of millions of pounds of further funding has also been made available to boost a variety of low-carbon technologies including offshore wind.

This represents a huge boost for the low carbon goods and services market in the UK and also represents a huge opportunity for UK exports too. The global market for low carbon goods and services is currently worth £3.2trn and is estimated to grow to over £4trn by 2015.

But the "green economy" isn't just about government spending. Our second priority is to undertake radical reforms that are designed to create new markets and to attract greater amounts of private investment into the green economy. It's about freeing up the private sector to do what it does best: innovate and create wealth. Our proposals for electricity market reform will create a new market which – for the very first time – will create large scale energy efficiency investment to compete with new power generation projects.

It's also about business becoming more energy efficient – a key requirement for any competitive firm in the 21st century. For all businesses, energy efficiency can make a real difference to the bottom line and increase competitiveness.

That's why we're bringing in the Green Deal, to be introduced next autumn for households as well as businesses, to help address the stumbling block of access to capital for green improvements.

Up and down the UK, from shops and offices to pubs and clubs, firms will be able to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings at no upfront cost. The expected energy savings should be higher than the cost of repayment and will help businesses spread the costs over time rather than shelling out upfront.

The Green Deal is not only a great way to tackle the financial barrier to energy efficiency, it also represents a massive new business opportunity with tens of billions of pounds of investment needed, products to be developed and jobs to be supported.

By creating a new market opportunity for private sector finance we will provide another major opportunity for growth and employment with tens of thousands of jobs likely to be created in the home insulation market alone by 2020. We want the Green Deal to be a real success story for British business.

The Prime Minister has committed this coalition to be the greenest government ever. We are driving forward the agenda in tough economic times but we are also absolutely certain that success depends on a business friendly approach to low carbon policy. That is what you'll get from this coalition; big ambition, long term vision but absolutely grounded in the economic realities of today.

Appointment of Claire Thomas as DECC Non-Executive Director

03 November 2011

Claire ThomasThe Secretary of State has today appointed Claire Thomas as a Non-Executive Director for DECC for a period of two years from 1 January 2012. 

Claire will join the Department’s existing Non-Executive Directors Paul Walsh and Rob Whiteman. Richard Reed will step down as a Non-Executive Director for DECC at the end of this year when his contract comes to an end. A further recruitment will bring the total up to four Non-Executive Directors for the Department as recommended by the Corporate governance code for central government departments.

In her role as Non-Executive for DECC, Claire will sit on the Departmental Board and work with Ministers, Non-Executives, and Executives. The Non-Executives work through influence and advice, supporting as well as challenging the Executive, and advising on performance, operational issues and on the effective management of the Department. Claire will sit on the newly formed Talent, Succession and Remuneration Committee, where she will be able to bring her invaluable experience in HR.

Further details on the Departmental board members can be found on the DECC website.

Claire Thomas Biography
SVP HR, GlaxoSmithKline

Claire is Senior Vice President at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) where she is a member of the Corporate Executive Team, reporting to the CEO. She leads the Global HR function for the Company and is responsible for GSK’s Environmental Sustainability Strategy.
Previous roles at GSK include Senior Vice President Human Resources Pharmaceuticals Europe where she successfully led the function through the merger with SmithKline Beecham and played a key strategic role in the radical redesign and delivery of the new operating model for GSK’s European Business.  She then assumed responsibility for Senior Vice President Human Resources Pharmaceuticals International where she was responsible for driving the HR agenda in Emerging Markets and Asia Pacific.
Prior to joining GSK Claire worked for Ford Motor Company, holding various HR leadership and organisational development positions in the Dagenham Assembly Plant, Sales & Marketing UK and Central Europe, and European Engineering.  Claire has a Bachelor of Science Honours Degree in Economics, Management and Industrial Relations from the University of Wales. Claire was honoured as an Outstanding European Woman of Achievement in 2007.

Cuadrilla’s geomechanical study on Shale Gas: Statement by Charles Hendry

“The potential for unconventional gas is worth exploring because of the additional security of supply and economic benefits it could provide. But it is important to stress it is very early days for shale gas in the UK – the scale of any possible commercial production is still unknown.

“We are committed to the highest standards of safety and environmental protection in all UK oil and gas activities, and we will look at Cuadrilla’s report carefully with the assistance of our independent experts and regulators, before deciding whether hydraulic fracturing operations should resume. This is a potentially important addition to our energy resources, but its development must be done in a way that carries public confidence.”

Reappointment of the Chair of the Nuclear Liabilities Financing Assurance Board

Press Notice Ref: 2011/092
31 October 2011

Lady Janet Balfour of Burleigh has been reappointed as Chair of the Nuclear Liabilities Financing Assurance Board (NLFAB) for a second term of office. 

The role of the NLFAB is to ensure that operators of new nuclear power stations make robust financial arrangements to meet the full costs of decommissioning and their full share of waste management and disposal costs.

Charles Hendry, Minister of State for Energy, said:

“I am pleased to appoint Lady Balfour to be Chair of the NLFAB for a second term. It is vital that operators – and not taxpayers – meet the costs of decommissioning, waste management and disposal for their new nuclear power stations and the NLFAB have an important role in ensuring this.”

The reappointment of Lady Balfour is for two years from 1 November 2011.

Separately, Stephen Newson has been appointed as a member of the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) by sponsor Ministers from DECC and the Devolved Administrations for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This is an interim appointment until 31 October 2012 to provide the Committee with expertise in underground engineering. Stephen Newson is a Chartered Engineer and Fellow of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining and is currently a Principal Mining Consultant for Parsons Brinckerhoff Ltd.

Notes for editors:

  1. The NLFAB is an advisory non-departmental public body set up to provide advice to the DECC Secretary of State on the suitability of the FDP (Funded Decommissioning Programme). It consists of a Chair and six members.   Lady Balfour was appointed as Chair of the NLFAB on 1 November 2008 for three years.  Her current term will expire on 31 October 2011.
  2. This a part time appointment based on an average of six Board meetings a year. The remuneration is £750 per day. 
  3. Appointments to the NLFAB are made in accordance with the requirements of the Code of the Commissioner for Public Appointments.   All appointments are made on merit and political activity plays no part in the selection process.   In accordance with the Nolan recommendations, there is a requirement for appointees’ political activity to be made public.  Lady Balfour has not declared any political activity.  She holds one other Ministerial appointment: Chair of the Nuclear Liabilities Fund.
  4. Further information about the NLFAB can be viewed on the DECC website.
  5. Further information about Funded Decommissioning Programmes can be viewed at on the DECC website.  
  6. CoRWM (the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management) provides independent scrutiny and advice to UK Government and Devolved Administration Ministers on long-term radioactive waste management, including storage and disposal. The Committee’s primary task is to provide independent scrutiny of the UK Government’s and Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s proposals, plans and programmes to deliver geological disposal, together with robust interim storage, as the long-term management option for higher activity waste. For more information see the CORWM website
  7. CoRWM consists of a Chair and 14 members. Members, with an average time commitment of one day per week, receive £300 per day. For more information see the CoRWM website.
  8. Stephen Newson takes over from Andy Sloan who stepped down from CoRWM membership on 30 April 2011. An appointments process to be run in 2012 will refresh around half of CoRWM’s membership and that exercise will appoint a member to provide underground engineering expertise from 1 November 2012.
  9. Appointments to CoRWM are made in accordance with the Code of Practice of the Commissioner for Public Appointments. All appointments are made on merit and political activity plays no part in the selection process. However, in accordance with the Nolan recommendations, appointees’ political activity (if any declared) must be made public. Mr Newson has not declared any political activity. Mr Newson holds no other ministerial public appointments.

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