On Thursday, the people of Eastleigh go to the polls for a crucial by-election. Many residents will rightly vote on local issues and the strength of the individual candidates. But they will also be voting for a party and, contrary to the cynical view that all politicians think alike, there are significant differences between the three main parties. One of the most critical disagreements is over Britain’s energy policy, and the Hampshire constituency is an appropriate place to discuss it.
Chris Huhne, Eastleigh’s former MP and the energy and climate change secretary until 2012, was an outspoken champion of green-energy production. Although his view remains fashionable, it is also wrong. The Lib Dems, and Labour, refuse to acknowledge the facts. Only the Conservatives are moving in the right direction.
This issue needs to be tackled: only last week, Alistair Buchanan, the chief executive of the regulator Ofgem, warned that falls in the UK’s power production are likely to lead to more energy imports and price rises for consumers. Already, power station closures are predicted to cause a 10 per cent fall in output in April alone.
Implicit in Mr Buchanan’s remarks is that the Coalition is not moving fast enough to create new sources of power as old ones are decommissioned. The Government’s Energy Bill remains just that – a Bill, while plans to build more nuclear power are still just plans. Investors are unwilling to spend huge sums of money in a country where they can’t predict what the future of energy policy will be. Practical issues that prevent investment in nuclear are also not being addressed quickly enough; earlier this month, Centrica abandoned plans for building new reactors in the UK because of rising costs and construction delays.