The government must urgently establish a strategic authority to oversee the future growth of Britain’s ageing energy infrastructure, a study argues on Tuesday .
Academics at Newcastle University challenge the government’s market-based approach, saying the £100bn needed to secure energy security is not being delivered by a fragmented system that lacks central direction.
The academics, led by Prof Phil Taylor, argue that the country needs a “systems architect” and that energy, at least for the bulk of the population, is too cheap, which is leading to waste.
While the Labour party has already said it wants an energy security board, one leading figure in the industry has said that Taylor was highlighting that “nobody is in charge” of the country’s energy policy.
Before Tuesday’s launch of the university’s latest energy briefing note, Taylor, who leads its Institute for Research on Sustainability, said: “The current pricing model does not accurately reflect the high economic and environmental cost of generating, storing and distributing energy. In fact, because of the way energy is sold today, it becomes cheaper the more we use. This is unsustainable.
“Although we must make sure people can afford to heat their homes, for the majority of us energy is actually too cheap – this is why we leave lights on, keep appliances running and use machines at peak times when energy costs more.”
The research paper describes the energy system as fragmented and, while it does not mention the role of the National Grid, which looks after the pipes and pylons, makes clear there needs to be a new body above that, but below government, which can oversee planning and development.
It also wants the government to help find ways to store low carbon energy efficiently and effectively in times of high supply so it can be released during periods of high demand, or to keep the lights on after storms have damaged the power network.