Excuse me while I have a Dr Evil from Austin Powers moment, but – ‘one hundred and ten b-i-l-l-i-o-n pounds’. That’s what the government thinks we need to update our ageing energy system and keep the lights on.
It sounds like a lot of money. No, let’s be clear, it is a lot of money. So the natural next question is who’s going to foot the bill? And the answer? Yes, you’ve guessed it, we will.
Not through our taxes though, oh no. The cost of ensuring that energy companies invest in new energy generation is going to be added to our ever increasing gas and electricity bills.
Investing in the future
This investment is needed. None of us want power cuts to be a feature of our daily lives. And since our creaking energy infrastructure needs a major overhaul, it makes absolute sense to ensure that we’re reliant on cleaner, greener alternatives in the future – such as renewable energy and nuclear.
Meanwhile the cost of doing nothing and relying on importing gas from overseas could be just as – or even more – expensive. This is why the government’s Energy Bill, published today, is so necessary.
Keeping a close eye on costs
My point is that we’re being asked to collectively cough up billions to pay for this investment (businesses will foot the bill too). It is only natural that we expect some assurances from the government that it will be delivered at the lowest possible cost..
This requires some basic things to be put in place. There needs to be transparency about the contracts negotiated between the government and energy generators. There’s got to be scrutiny of the decisions made by ministers with a clear role for consumer representatives to make sure that contracts deliver value for money. And contracts need to be presented to Parliament before they are signed, to make sure that the government is held to account for their decisions.
You would expect this for any other major public project. Think about the level of scrutiny that the Olympic Games costs were put under – and their budget was £9.3 billion. Or think about how the £3.6 billion High Speed Two rail project costs have been put under the microscope.
With energy prices right at the top of your financial concerns, it is absolutely vital that ministers make sure that this process is as rigorous and robust as possible. And Which? will be poring over the Bill over the next few weeks and pressing for it to be toughened so that affordability for consumers is right at its heart.