Lord Bourne speaks out on Brexit energy risks

Writing exclusively for Network and Utility Week, Lord Bourne, parliamentary under secretary of state for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc), says exiting the EU would be bad for energy investment, energy costs and energy security.

Lord Bourne speaks out on Brexit energy risks

Decc’s key responsibility is making sure our families and businesses have the certainty of secure, affordable and clean energy supplies. For this very reason, I want the UK to vote to stay in the EU on 23 June – because it helps to deliver these objectives as well as helping us to tackle climate change more effectively.

An independent report commissioned by National Grid (and published 24 March), shows that leaving the EU and its internal energy market could see energy costs rocket by at least £500 million a year. And these costs could easily be a lot higher. 

Why would we want to leave if it’s cheaper and easier to buy and sell energy across borders through the EU energy single market? The market that helps to boost competition and keep prices down for British consumers.  Moreover, if we stay in the EU, we’re expected to more than double the amount of electricity we can import from the continent over the next 5 years, saving consumers nearly £12 billion in energy costs over the next two decades.

EU membership doesn’t just benefit consumers. Being in the EU single energy market attracts billions of pounds of investment in UK energy by providing stability and full access to the world’s largest single market of 500 million people. This is crucial given the UK’s energy investment needs – £100 billion in electricity by 2020. The EU is our biggest source of foreign investment in energy- £45 billion from across Europe was invested in our utilities sectors in 2014. A good example here is Siemens of Germany which employs 14,000 people in the UK and is currently investing over £300 million in a new turbine factory in Hull, creating up to 1,000 jobs.

Quitting the EU is not good news for investment and energy costs and it could also affect the supply of energy in the future. By 2030 we are expected to import about three quarters of our gas. That means we have to continue to work well with our closest neighbours. We have seen how countries such as Putin’s Russia use their gas supplies as a tool of foreign policy. Threatening to cut off supplies or drastically increase prices. By working together, the European Union has the power to force Putin’s hand. We can source gas from elsewhere. We can drive down the price of imports.

Playing a leading role in the EU means we have more impact as we tackle the global challenges that affect us all like climate change. Acting on climate change outside the EU would be nowhere near as effective as it is now.  It is a major threat to UK security and prosperity, and that’s why the UK passed our Climate Change Act, but we cannot solve it alone.  

By ensuring that the rest of the EU acts on climate change at a similar pace to the UK, we can help maintain a level playing field for UK business, and extend low-carbon market opportunities for UK businesses. The EU’s carbon market drives emission cuts wherever they are cheapest across Europe, while EU-wide action helps stimulate green investment, innovation and trade, creating jobs and financial security for families and businesses in the UK.

Those who want us to leave cannot tell you what a future outside Europe’s internal energy market would look like. Neither will they tell you how much it will cost. Leaving the EU is bad for bills, bad for investment, bad for our security and bad for climate change.

Acting as part of a 500 million strong EU bloc strengthens our global influence, helping us to secure investment and global climate deals, and issue strong sanctions if others use energy as a foreign policy tool. The investment that comes from the EU sees our industries grow and job opportunities and financial security for working people and their families along with it.  Remaining is right, quitting would be foolhardy and dangerous.


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