As we switch on our Christmas lights this weekend - including the fantastic new set won by the St Leonards Town Team – it is easy to take for granted that a flick of a switch will result in instant electricity.
Quite rightly we expect a secure electricity supply, from large businesses to local residents, and with the days getting shorter and colder, we rely on it even more.
A few weeks ago I visited UK Power Networks’ roadshow in Hastings and was pleased to hear about the scheme they have put in place to help vulnerable people during power cuts. Local residents can sign up for free here: http://www.ukpowernetworks.co.uk/internet/en/power-cuts/priority-services-during-a-power-cut/. In addition, when I visited Little Skaters Nursery and Pre-School, it was great to hear they have invested in installing the latest green technology, a 14kwh Air Source Heat Pump to supply the heating for the premises.
I’m keen to build on such local successes and last week, as Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, I outlined the Government’s new direction for national energy policy. I set out a plan that puts consumers first; providing for a secure low carbon supply, delivered affordably through a competitive market.
We face a real challenge; we now have an electricity system where no form of power generation can be built without government help. Even with huge growth in renewables, our dependence on coal - the dirtiest fossil fuel – hasn’t been reduced. We need to find the right balance. That is why there will be a consultation in the Spring on when to close coal fired power stations. My proposal is to end coal power generation by 2025; this would be one of the greatest and most cost-effective contributions we can make to reductions in our greenhouse gas emissions by replacing our coal fired power stations with gas.
Nuclear too can help us tackle carbon at a reasonable cost. Nuclear is safe and reliable. As we can see from our local nuclear plant in Dungeness, nuclear power can be important in providing skills and job opportunities which benefit our local economy.
In my speech I also talked about smart meters. Every home and business in Hastings and Rye will have them by the end of 2020. These devices will provide feedback that will help us all work out where we are wasting energy and can reduce our bills.
A topic which is almost always raised when I visit local schools and organisations is climate change. I will be travelling to Paris this month for the UN Conference on Climate Change where there will be discussions on the global action that must be taken to reduce emissions. Achieving a global deal in Paris is crucial but it cannot be left to politicians to dictate the solution; it will take action by businesses, civil society, cities, regions and nations. We will all be pulling together in Paris to finally get the deal to limit global emissions.
Ultimately, I want to establish a sensible, affordable, long-term national energy policy that our hardworking families and businesses can rely on.