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Energy / Lower electricity prices not too far off, energy minister claims

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Nuclear and Networks) at the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero at the Kergord converter station earlier in May. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

HOUSEHOLDS and businesses in Shetland, and indeed across the UK, are set to enjoy the lowest electricity prices in Europe once more homegrown renewable energy is fed into the national grid and the market becomes less reliant on expensive fossil fuels, it was claimed on Thursday.

Visiting the SSEN converter construction site at Kergord on Thursday, UK energy minister Andrew Bowie said work to reform the system that sets the price for wholesale electricity was well underway.

The junior minister with responsibilities for nuclear and networks said the government had stepped in to cap the price for electricity and promised that energy prices would come down over coming years – although he was unwilling to give an exact timeframe.

The Conservative MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine said ultimately the UK’s abundance of renewable energy sources would lead to “clean, cheap and secure energy”.

He said that he acknowledged that this was a difficult message in a community with an extremely high level of fuel poverty, and insisted that the government was focused on putting a system in place that would benefit consumers.

“It is not fair, I do understand that particularly in the parts of the world where your heating is on for a longer period of the year – that’s why we are taking the action we are,” he said.

“This is a very difficult decision as there are lots of complexities around it. I don’t want to give a date for when this will happen, but this an issue we are looking at in great depth and great detail right now.

Kergord converter station: a series of very large green sheds.

“This has been a very difficult year for a lot of people. I don’t think a lot of people don’t quite understand why energy prices are as high as they are, but we have taken steps this winter and energy prices are actually half of what they would have been had the government not stepped in.”

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A Viking wind turbine is being completed at the north end of the Kames.

He added: “Moving forward we have to come up with a way of moving away from a situation where we have fantastic renewable energy which should be a lot cheaper and electricity prices that are not coupled to the gas price.

“This is at the top of priorities for the government to get on with.

“As we wean ourselves off expensive and the wildly fluctuating price for oil and gas, we will see an overall decrease in bills.

“If we get all we need to do done in the tight timescale that we set ourselves, then we could in this country have the cheapest, and cleanest, electricity in Europe.”

Describing the Viking Energy wind farm and the infrastructure being built to connect Shetland to the national grid as “world class”, he acknowledged that affected communities needed to see direct benefits from the developments happening at their doorsteps.

This is why the Conservatives were consulting on higher community benefit payments to communities, he said.

The MP said he was aware of the campaign for a special electricity tariff for consumers in Shetland, but said this was a topic for the regulator Ofgem rather than the minister.

He added: “If we are going to wean ourselves off fossil fuels, and we are going to get to this greener future, and we are going to get cheaper bills, and we are going to become more energy independent, all of which I think is really important, then we have to build the infrastructure to allow us to do that.”

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