Davey and Barker hint at plans for the New Year designed to help accelerate the roll out of clean power while curbing energy costs
Ed Davey has kicked off the New Year by calling on the EU to urgently fast track plans for new cross-border interconnectors to help reduce energy bills and ensure the bloc remains competitive with the US, where energy costs have plummeted in recent years.
In an interview with the Independent newspaper, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary dismissed Conservative suggestions that the UK would be able to emulate the US shale gas boom in a way that leads to dramatic reductions in energy prices, and as such had to look at alternative mechanisms for curbing the cost of energy.
"I always focus on the evidence and analysis and the evidence and analysis suggests that, while shale gas may have many advantages, it is extremely unlikely that with the UK doing it alone there is going to be any price reduction as a result of shale gas," he told the paper, in comments that are bound to infuriate those Conservative ministers who have emerged as cheerleaders for the UK's nascent shale gas sector.
He added that the EU should respond to the US's more competitive energy prices by accelerating the development of long-promised cross-border interconnectors – a strategy that experts claim would reduce energy costs while supporting the development of new sources of clean energy.
"We need much better grid interconnectors around Europe to enable energy to flow across the EU," he said. "Connecting the UK with mainland Europe and different parts of the periphery of Europe with central Europe. We need Eastern and Central Europe to be better connected with Germany and France and we need the Iberian peninsula to be better connected through France."
In addition, Davey again criticised Labour leader Ed Miliband's plans to freeze energy prices if elected, warning that it would penalise small, independent energy providers that would struggle to survive if wholesale gas prices rose during the period when they would not be able to pass those cost increases onto customers.
Labour has countered that the price freeze would allow it to 'reset' the energy market while it enacts reforms, such as the creation of an energy pool, which would make it easier for smaller generators to compete in the market.
Meanwhile, Climate Change Minister Greg Barker again reasserted his commitment to the solar sector, with reports suggesting he is working on plans to encourage public sector organisations to dramatically increase their deployment of solar panels.
"Government public buildings should be at the forefront of the move to renewable energy," he said in a speech earlier this month. "So next year you can expect to hear more from me on my ambitious plans to ensure the government estate plays its part in the decentralised energy revolution. The government is sitting on huge potential; we need to do much more."
A spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change refused to be drawn on the details of the new plans, but confirmed that the government was on the brink of announcing that the UK's 500,000th solar installation is to be completed through the feed-in tariff scheme and is keen to see the rapid expansion of the market continue this year.
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