Politics

Ministers change at energy and climate change

The former energy minister, Kwasi Kwarteng, has been appointed business secretary. He replaces Alok Sharma, who moves to work fulltime as president of the COP26 climate conference in November.

Kwasi Kwarteng (left), Anne-Marie Trevelyan (centre) and Alok Sharma (right). Photos: gov.uk

Mr Kwarteng, whose appointment was announced this afternoon, is replaced by Anne-Marie Trevelyan, a former international development secretary.

In the past year, Mr Kwarteng has made several public statements indicating a lack of support for fracking.

He told a parliamentary debate in September 2020 that the moratorium on fracking in England

“sends a clear message, not only to the sector but the local communities concerned, that fracking on current evidence will not be taken forward in England.”

He added:

“We will not support fracking unless the science shows categorically that it can be done safely and without inconvenience. This is extremely unlikely to happen as far as I am concerned. There will be no fracking for the foreseeable future”.

In June 2020, he told BBC North West Tonight:

“We had a moratorium on fracking last year and frankly the debate’s moved on. It is not something that we’re looking to do.

“We’ve always said we’d be evidence-backed so if there was a time when the science evidence changed our minds we would be open to that. But for now, fracking is over.”

Opponents of other forms of well stimulation were disappointed in May 2020, when Mr Kwarteng dismissed calls to extend the moratorium. He described acidisation as “a common technique carried out to clean and develop wells” and said the current regulations provided “a high standard of environmental protection.”

Ann-Marie Trevelyan will continue in her role as the UK’s international champion on adaptation and resilience for the COP26 presidency.

Her appointment to COP26 attracted criticism from environmental campaigners when it emerged she had actively opposed windfarms in her Berwick-on-Tweed constituency and in 2015 she retweeted a pro-fracking article.

Also in 2015, she supported government regulations to allow fracking under national parks and some other protected areas.

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In November 2020, she defended her opposition to windfarms to the Huffington Post and said:

“In 2020, technology has progressed to ensure that we can use both onshore wind and importantly offshore wind to help feed our power grid.

“We continue to need base load which will come from gas and nuclear in the near future. As the world moves away from hydrocarbons, the UK is world leading in setting legal frameworks for electric vehicles and other new technologies which will help us meet our Paris agreement commitments.”

Alok Sharma, who has been business secretary and COP president since February 2020, will remain a full member of the cabinet. He will chair the climate action implementation committee to coordinate government action in the run-up to COP26 towards net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Mr Sharma said:

“The biggest challenge of our time is climate change and we need to work together to deliver a cleaner, greener world and build back better for present and future generations.

“Through the UK’s Presidency of COP26 we have a unique opportunity, working with friends and partners around the world, to deliver on this goal.”

The COP26 will be the largest summit the UK has ever hosted. It will be held in Glasgow and bring together representatives from nearly 200 countries.

Update 14/1/2021

The Guardian reported that Mr Kwarteng accepted funding as part of the 2019 general election campaign from fossil fuel investors and advisers. They included:

  • IPGL, a holding company with a 40% stake in Cluff Energy Africa, which prospects for oil in west Africa
  • Majid Jafar, chief executive of Crescent Petroleum, a privately-held company with oil and gas operations in the Middle East
  • Helios Investment Partners, whose portfolio includes Eland Oil and Gas, Impact Oil and Gas, Vivo Energy and Africa Oil Corp

9 replies »

  1. At 13.35 GMT yesterday total electricity demand for the UK National Grid was 44.3GW. Renewable energy only met 10.2 GW of that demand. Can someone please explain to me how that demand gap could be met by renewables alone? Bear in mind that we are in a double dip deep recession & transport is hardly electrified. Domestic heating is dominated by gas. So the outlook is for electricity demand to rise significantly in the future. Also nuclear capacity is falling. It only supplied 5.86GW at 13.35 GMT yesterday.

  2. Hi Dr Nick – the only way renewables can reliably fill this gap is with pumped hydro. However we are lacking the necessary geography for this unless we start building dams across Ennerdale etc. Sounds cheap??

    The answer of course is that renewables are not able to fill this demand gap with current technology and at a reasonable cost.

    As I noted the other day:

    “A timely reminder of the impact of the “Green Agenda” and putting all our eggs in one basket… this is only going to get worse with each additional wind turbine added. Hopefully the Government will wake up and ensure there is sufficient back up available for high pressure events at night. And batteries will not be viable in sufficient capacity.

    https://www.theguardian.com/business/2021/jan/05/cold-snap-sees-uk-electricity-market-prices-reach-new-high

    “Cold snap forces UK electricity market prices to new high
    National Grid issues urgent call for suppliers to generate extra 524MW of electricity capacity”

    The obvious solution is more gas power stations and preferably locally sourced gas.”

    Looking at Gridwatch today it appears we are using coal again today to partly fill the lack of wind generation; the rest of course is made up by gas and even diesel. As the Guardian notes, over reliance on wind generation, no wind = record electricity prices……

  3. Paul, actually renewable generation yesterday at 13.35 GMT was 10.2% of demand. – I made a mistake- that is a total of @ 4.7GW. Coal was 3.08GW & of course coal is going to be phased out.

    • The U.K. government sold 20 years worth of gas to China back in December 2015. So it has to come out of the ground, as they need it to make plastics. Equally, when we have to pay for our own healthcare people won’t be able to afford cars anyway. If Nicky boy wants this so badly then put a rig outside his front door

      • Odd comment Kenneth Lloyd. Please explain? “The UK Government sold 20years worth of gas to China etc.”?

        20 years of UK gas consumption / year?

        How does this gas get to China?

        Or do you mean a Chinese owned company has bought some UK gas reserves / fields and the gas continues to be transported to mainland UK and utilised in the UK?

        You already pay for your own healthcare – assuming you pay tax and NI. If you don’t, perhaps I pay for your health care?

        • I should have added that the UK Government does not own any gas? I don’t think we have a strategic reserve of gas like the US does for oil?

  4. Well, I certainly pay for my health care, and have paid my chunk for others health care. Fuel duty, at £28 Billion/year/in the UK also does it’s bit.

    As for China buying up stuff, a very strange remark to make. I believe it is China behind much of the encouragement of poor young kids scraping for cobalt in the DRC, receiving a pittance, and suffering the appalling sicknesses as a result.

    And, then, I wonder where many of the solar panels come from, and how the environment is doing as a result of the manufacture of them?

    So, the alternative environmental reality not so positive. Yes, I would prefer an oil rig close by compared to some of those alternatives. Looking at the list recently produced on this site, I know a number of those that have been pumping away for many years without any issues, amid some of the nicest countryside within the UK.

  5. Martin & Dr Nick – I don’t see any renewable proposals from anyone on this BB? Perhaps there aren’t any viable ones?

    Wind up today as expected but still only 30% of demand. Coal producing more than solar (which of course is zero as it’s now dark).

    And no comments on the UK gas going to China?

  6. Maybe, they are awaiting the removal of the 5% VAT on ESMs, that may follow on from tampons, Paul?

    Strange how the Greens with their EU support, are so blinded to the taxation without representation (that was a great success!), that has applied to some items. Wonder if the ESMs will have their VAT cut in March? Probably. If so, where will it go?

    I don’t think it will encourage one of my neighbours adding more solar panels where their current large stables covered with the things manages to produce 33p worth of electricity on a bright, sunny, winters day-whenever they happen! Not even enough to pay the window cleaner to enable them to achieve that figure.

    (I await the shrieks about MEPs etc., however, even ignoring the above areas, the UK would not have had to put up with the costly nonsense of the CAP or CFP if there was any real representation regarding taxation for the UK within the EU.)

    Without any reversal of that taxation policy within the EU, it will fall apart. I would have expected Brussels to recognise that, but dogma seems more important than common sense.

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