Nick Herbert: No form of energy without controversy

Rising energy bills are causing great concern. So what can be done?

Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert
Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert

An artificial price cap won’t work. No government has control over the wholesale cost of gas, which accounts for the largest element of household bills.

We do, though, need to look at whether competition is working effectively in the energy market, and this week the Prime Minister announced a review.

He also indicated that green taxes, which account for about 15 per cent of bills, will be rolled back. The balance we have to strike is enabling the long-term investment in new forms of energy generation, while not loading unnecessary new cost onto the consumer.

We need more diverse energy sources. That would be good for energy security and reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

That’s why I welcome this week’s announcement of the first new nuclear power station commissioned since 1995. Hinkley Point C will provide power for nearly 6 million homes, cutting emissions and reducing bills in the long term.

The truth is that no form of energy generation is without controversy or cost. Onshore wind turbines are widely loathed. Fortunately there aren’t plans to put them on the protected landscape of the South Downs anyway.

Even offshore wind excites controversy. At least the cables running from the proposed site at Rampion, off the Brighton coast, to Bolney will be buried, so the disruption onshore will be temporary.

Now we have the prospect of fracking in West Sussex, since the Weald Basin is believed to be a significant source of shale gas.

While I accept that shale may be an important new source of energy, my concern is to ensure that the environment and countryside are not damaged by its extraction.

There are concerns about the use of water and about vehicle movements through tranquil countryside and villages.

An application for exploratory drilling between Kirdford and Wisborough Green has been made by Celtique Energy, and this week I relayed the concerns of my constituents to the County Council.

If permission is granted, either oil or shale gas could be found, but if it is shale, a new application will have to be made to extract it.

Ministers have stated that fracking can and should be done in a sensitive manner that does not damage the environment, and that the process will be properly regulated. I want to ensure that this is the case.

If you would like to get in touch with me, please write to me at the House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA, or e-mail me at [email protected]