UK urges speeding up of new gas import and storage facilities
Trade and Industry Secretary Alistair Darling said there was a compelling economic case for speeding up planning
decisions on new gas import and storage facilities in the UK. With the UK becoming increasingly dependent on imported
gas and concerns growing about delays to vital new facilities, Darling said that the government need to continue
working with industry to "mitigate the impact of another potentially tight winter this year."
"Supplies of gas were maintained by the market throughout the past winter, there were no power cuts, the lights remained on. But this is cold comfort, not least to energy intensive businesses and low-income households who have faced price hikes," he said.
His warning, laid as a new “Statement of Need” presented in Parliament, comes as Britain is becoming
increasing exposed to shortages of energy with oil and gas supplies from the North Sea running dry. Darling said he
was also establishing a new high-level Business Energy Forum to bring together representatives of heavy industry, the
energy sector, users, regulators and local decision makers to consider national interests when looking at planning
"Our eye will be fixed... on security of supply this coming winter," he said, but further added that even looking further ahead, the Statement of Need is critical.
The minister voiced increasing concern that developers are facing unnecessary uncertainty and additional costs
through avoidable delays in the planning system and said "this has to change."
"New energy projects may not always appear to confer any particular local benefit, but they provide crucial national benefits, which all localities share," he said. Ten new gas storage projects are presently coming forward and Darling said that "if they all go ahead on time we could see our storage capacity more than doubling by 2010."
There are also proposals for a number of important new gas import projects. The Statement of Need will help these
developers make their case more effectively.
Britain is faced with the added burden in becoming more dependent on energy imports, by having to build storage facilities for liquefied natural gas as well as interconnecting pipelines to replace supplies of natural gas from the North Sea.