Criticising green agenda in light of higher bills is wrong, Ofgem boss says

Jonathan Brearley said that renewables could cut the link between global politics and energy prices.

08 March 2022

The boss of Ofgem has hit out at those who claim that the UK cannot keep energy costs down for consumers while fulfilling its climate targets.

Jonathan Brearley said there is no weight to the argument as renewables prices fall while gas prices are at record highs.

It comes after calls from some MPs for the Government to reverse its moratorium on fracking, which has been in place since 2019 following some minor exploration in England.

Speaking at an event in London as Russian troops continued fighting in Ukraine, Mr Brearley said renewables could also cut the link between global politics and energy prices.

“Some have argued there is a contradiction between a low carbon and renewable energy system and the need to keep costs down for consumers,” he said.

“I have to say that that argument no longer holds weight – the economics of energy have fundamentally changed.

“Before the crisis, many forms of low carbon generation had already become cheaper than conventional generation.

“Now, with the volatility we see in gas prices, the economic case is far stronger.”

“We have known – for a long time – that we needed to move away from fossil fuels to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change,” he said.

Ofgem appoints Jonathan Brearley as chief executive
Ofgem chief executive Jonathan Brearley.

Speaking at an event in London as Russian troops continued fighting in Ukraine he said that renewables could also cut the link between global politics and energy prices.

He added: “It is not in customers’ interests for their household bills (to be) beholden to the uncertainties of geopolitics.”

But he said drilling for more gas at home will do nothing to reduce energy prices, which are set globally.

It came as MPs were told earlier on Tuesday that the average length of time between a licence being granted and fossil fuels being produced in the North Sea is 28 years.

Greenpeace chief scientist Dr Doug Parr said that fracking in the UK was “not a reasonable response.”

“We need to come back to demand and things that we can do relatively quickly… to reduce our demand, particularly for gas, and that’s in the energy efficiency and renewables space,” he told the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee.

He added: “I think over the next six months as we approach the next winter we, as a country, are going to do some pretty rapid thinking about what we do to support people.

“We’re going to need a package of measures which are not really about greening the system, but just about basic humanity to shelter people from invideous choices that they are otherwise going to have to make. Because they’re going to end up not properly eating or heating.”

Lindsey Walter, at Third Way’s Climate and Energy Program, said that all solutions will be needed, including rapid deployment of renewables, electrifying heating and replacing Russian gas with imported liquid natural gas.

“We’re living in a fundamentally new reality. Gas prices are so much more expensive now that the economics of the clean energy transition has changed. Gas will not be cheap in Europe in the short to medium term,” she said.

“At current gas prices it’s cheaper to get to net zero and facilitate this clean energy transition than it is to do business as usual.”

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