I think the Prime Minister is right to recognise the enormous potential of offshore wind in the UK. It will be very good, not just for climate and for consumers, but also for the economy as a whole. But he does need to be careful not to overpromise. The wind blows everywhere and we are not the leaders in wind technology yet. So we are not about to replace Saudi Arabia.
I think that we are already starting on the path to meet all our energy needs from renewables sources. It is not so much a technology option, more a question of how we go faster on the course that we are already on. To use the increasing range and cheapness of storage, so that we can manage the intermittence of wind and solar, and meet all of our electricity demand from renewable sources. It is important to remember that the government is also investing almost three billion pounds in improving the energy efficiency of our homes, and more on other buildings. So we are going to be driving electricity demand down, as well as making it possible to meet that energy demand from renewable sources.
I think that he is talking about moving away from gas, over time, but that is not what we need to do now. What we need to do now is get the right electricity system, and in time, as we build new houses, and as houses are renovated, we will move increasingly to using electricity for heating. We are already lowering the electricity use in houses for lighting, simply by shifting to LEDs. Heating is the area that is more difficult, that is why the energy efficiency component of this approach is so important. The more energy efficient we make our houses, the less energy we need to use to keep them comfortable, and to keep reducing our energy bills.
I think if you try to say to people that they need to change overnight, you clearly would get big consumer reluctance. You don’t get far in this kind of big transformational change by forcing people to do something that they don’t want to do. You do it by getting the right priorities, and having consistency in your policies, so people see the direction of travel and adapt to stick with it. It’s not a question of big sticks, it is how you combine carrots and sticks.
I expect energy bills over time to go down, if you do it in the right way. Energy consumption in our homes has been going down for the last decade, because we have been getting more efficient. Prices have gone up sometimes, simply because the cost of gas fluctuates a lot. But in fact, we have been making the overall efficiency of the way we use energy better for some time. I think that there is a fair amount of scaremongering and bad analysis involved in people suggesting that this is going to cost more. Why would anyone think that a more efficient system will end up costing more?