There must be urgent action over decisions on wind farms and nuclear power stations after energy policy has been “neglected”, the chairman of the government’s energy committee has said.
Tim Yeo, a Conservative MP and chair of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee, has warned of a risk of the “lights going out” in Britain, as ministers failed to act quickly on vital energy issues.
He said there could be no further delays in decision-making if the country was to attract investment and added the slow progress in introducing new legislation had a negative effect on consumers.
Speaking at the UK Energy Summit, he said the whole policy area had been neglected in favour of other departments.
Afterwards, he added: “I think it is low priority. I also think that the Department of Energy is a small player in Whitehall terms.
“It does not have the clout that other departments have.
“The political pressures inside the coalition have forced the government to give much greater priority to other issues such as House of Lords reform, which in terms of meeting Britain’s needs is neither here nor there.
“There are many more important things that need to happen.
“My fear is that if we don’t see an investment happening very quickly we may reach the situation in four or five years time where there is a strain on our generating capacity.
“Later this decade there could be a capacity crisis and if we find that in order to meet it we have to rush through new constructions, it would almost certainly cost more than if it were done in an orderly fashion.”
Mr Yeo, who was speaking just a week after David Cameron called for more wind farms to boost British industry, maintained a suitable economic framework must be put in place in order to attract new investment in gas, nuclear and renewable energies.
His words come as five climate change activists were arrested outside the conference for breaching the peace.
A sixth was arrested on suspicion of assaulting a police officer, amid accusations from protestors the forced used disproportionate tactics to control them.
More than 100 activists had gathered outside the event, in a hotel near St Paul’s, London, and tried to gain entry.
Last week, David Cameron told more than 20 energy ministers from around the world, he wanted more renewables to be built to keep the lights on while “protecting the planet for our children and grandchildren”.
He gave his support to plans for 70 turbines off the North East coast, along with another onshore wind farm.
At the Clean Energy Ministerial conference, he said: “Renewables are now the fastest growing energy source on the planet.
“I am proud that Britain has played a leading role at the forefront of this green energy revolution.”
More than 100 Tory MPs have already written to the Prime Minister to object to plans to cover the country in turbines and George Osborne, the Chancellor, has promised not to ‘burden’ business with green policies.