Energy secretary Ed Miliband has admitted the UK needs more gas storage but hit back at opposition claims the country is in danger of exhausting its current supply.
Miliband said Conservative figures which claim there is only enough gas to last eight more days were “meaningless” because they did not include imports and North Sea storage.
He said the Tories were “playing politics” and trying to scare the public with inaccurate data during question time in the House of Commons.
Shadow energy secretary Greg Clark had challenged Miliband over British storage capacity, claiming UK consumers had to pay more than other countries because there is little opportunity to stockpile cheap gas when prices drop.
Insisting that more supplies were on their way, Miliband said: “Your figures ignore the role of the North Sea, which provide 50% of our gas storage and they ignore the role of import capacity in the UK.”
“We need more gas storage and there are more projects being planned.”
Energy secretary Ed Miliband
In return, Clark quipped: “You should listen to your junior minister Lord Hunt, who said that the new storage capacity that has been opened in the last year has been the equivalent of five hours worth - which is about as much time as it took you to decide whether or not to back the Prime Minister.
“Fuel poverty is soaring, we have too little gas storage capacity… it is clear that every day that goes by the Government are taking us back to a world that we thought we had left behind in the 1970s.”
Miliband answered: “We need more gas storage and there are more projects being planned… we do need more gas storage.
“But it is worth saying that at the beginning of this week gas storage was 80% full in the UK.”
He added: “Playing politics with energy security and gas storage and alarming people is the wrong thing to do.”
Commenting on the second gas balancing alert (GBA) issued by the National Grid this week, director general of the Institution of Civil Engineers Tom Foulkes said:
“The UK’s gas policy needs urgent re-thinking. We are far too dependent on gas, with over 70% of the UK’s homes reliant on gas for domestic heating.
“This dependence is a throw-back to the 1990s when we had an abundant supply of gas in the North Sea and it was cheaper than other sources. However, nowadays we depend solely on international markets and as the last few days have shown, they are not reliable and will end up costing us dearly.
“The UK has the largest demand for gas in Europe but we have very little storage capacity in comparison. It makes sense commercially and for ongoing security of supply to focus on urgently redressing this imbalance.”