I certainly hope not if his performance on Newsnight last Thursday is anything to go by. If you didn’t see it you can view it on the BBC iPlayer here. It’s worth a watch, partly because journalist Susan Watts’ excellent report on the issues facing UK energy policy and the so-called ‘tri-lemma’ of keeping the lights on, reducing costs for consumers, and reducing emissions. It also included a contribution from David Handley of RES.
However, it was former Cabinet Minister Peter Lilley MP who came out with some truly bizarre claims during his debate with energy analyst Tom Burke and environmental campaigner Joss Garman. Coming after a fortnight when the Government’s already weak green ambitions (see our previous blog post) were further watered down, he paints a worrying vision of the Tory mindset on the environment. (Where’s Nat Rothschild when you need him?)
The debate was held following last week’s news that RWE npower and E.ON had pulled out of the Horizon Nuclear Power consortium. In his defence of developing new nuclear and gas power in the UK (something that I don’t necessarily have a problem with), Lilley resorted to making bizarre unsubstantiated claims about renewable capacity (does he write for the Daily Mail?) and knocking renewables in general.
“The only way you can meet carbon commitments, if you think its important to reduce or eliminate carbon emissions in producing electricity, is nuclear and so we’ve got to go that way if we want to do that,” he said while scowling at his debating opponents. When pressed by host Emily Maitless on his own attitude to reducing carbon, he replied: “I don’t think it’s nearly as important as people imagine. I don’t dispute the science, I trained as a pysisict, but I do dispute the economic that’s been built up on the back of the carbon fears.”
Claiming that gas prices would reduce, largely thanks to a huge (and so-far unproven) reserve of shale gas in the UK, he said a switch to gas-fired power generation would reduce the UK’s carbon emissions and costs for consumers, despite the fact that recent rises in wholesale bills have largely been attributed to rising gas prices.
“If we were to switch to wind and solar then our bills would be much, much higher. Renewables are far more expensive than fossil fuels,” he commented. “The idea that you can run a modern economy on fluctuating energy supplies like wind, which blows sometimes and doesn’t, or the sun, whcih goes in at night… [is laughable].”
He became very irate when Tom Burke pointed out that at any time 24% of UK nuclear capacity is offline and that German renewables produce a similar level of grid mix at there peak. “Even a night the sun doesn’t shine,” he spat like a petulant child, “even in Germany!”
Ignoring the £70 billion indirect subsidy offered to Horizon Nuclear Power he added, “You can’t pretend these other sources of electricity are less expensive and still demand subsidies for them.”