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Energy minister: UK energy infrastructure "needs rebuilding"

Britain’s electricity infrastructure “essentially” needs rebuilding, Energy minister Charles Hendry has said.

Around £200bn of new investment would be required to address long-term failures to tackle problems, Hendry told MPs.

But he vowed the Government was “alive to the challenges” and “moving forward on all fronts” to attract money for new nuclear, clean coal, renewables and gas.

During a Commons debate on draft national policy statements for energy – described as “complex, lengthy documents which cover all aspects of energy policy” – Tory Charlie Elphicke said many of his most vulnerable constituents were worried that “in five years time the lights may go out”.

Hendry said demand had reduced in recent years, which had relieved pressure on supply, but that the government was not complacent.

He added: “There is perhaps £200bn of new investment which is required in our electricity infrastructure. We essentially have to rebuild it.

“It would have been very much better for the country if more of that work had been done before 6 May.

“It would have been very much better if there hadn’t been a five-year moratorium on new nuclear and, therefore, delayed those new nuclear installations by some years.

“I applaud the conversion of the last administration which started to put us very much back on track but there was a real loss of a number of years in that process.

“So, what we now need to do is put in place the structure which will incentivise people to invest in new nuclear, clean coal, coal with carbon capture, in renewables where we have so much potential in this country, and in new gas plants, which is going to be necessary as well – and with that also comes a need for gas storage.

“We are alive to all of those challenges and we are moving forward on all fronts.”

Hendry said the coalition had “four pillars” to its energy policy before setting out them as: energy-saving, more renewables, new nuclear, clean coal and gas.

He also hailed the potential of the government’s “Green Deal” designed to promote the installation of energy efficiency measures without upfront costs to households – insisting the poor would not be overlooked.

The debate ended without a vote.

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