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Electricity Capacity

Volume 566: debated on Thursday 11 July 2013

The Government welcome Ofgem’s electricity capacity assessment as an authoritative investigation into security of supply over the next five winters. We will be working closely with Ofgem and National Grid to take decisive steps to ensure that security of supply is maintained in the short, medium and long term.

It is the excitement of your Speakership, Mr Speaker.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the quickest, cheapest and most environmentally friendly way to ensure that the lights stay on at a time when capacity margins are a bit tight is through demand-side measures? Will he explore how Smart technology could be used more effectively to extend time-of-use pricing, which would cut some of the peaks in demand and thereby reduce the need for some of the expensive new capacity that is being considered?

Of course demand-side measures have a role to play, but Ofgem will also be looking at better balancing the system as a whole, using some of the measures it has been using for more than 20 years. We will also be looking at whether some of the previously mothballed plant, or mothballed units at some plant, can be brought back into operation if needed.

The Minister is obviously well aware that even on a sunny and slightly blustery day in different parts of the country, significant amounts of capacity and generation still comes from coal. We have talked about carbon capture and storage a number of times in relation to the long term, but I want to press him on a point that his predecessor, the right hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr Hayes), made in, I think, his final appearance at the Dispatch Box before moving to the Cabinet Office. He undertook then, in response to a question I asked him, to prepare a short-term strategy for coal. Does that commitment stand, or did it disappear off to the Cabinet Office with the previous Minister?

Our focus on coal over the past three months has been almost wholly on ensuring the survival of the Thoresby and Kellingley collieries, which are two of the four remaining deep-mine collieries in this country. I am pleased to say that UK Coal Operations Ltd entered its restructuring earlier this week, meaning that some 2,000 jobs have now been saved. That has been the focus for my Department, for officials from a whole number of Government agencies and for the management of that company.