Powerline to battle Westminster’s energy measures

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A CROSS-industry group called the Powerline that will link up with consumer bodies to publicly fight what it brands the “absurd” energy policies of the coalition government is on the brink of being officially launched.

In the Powerline’s immediate cross-hairs are Westminster energy secretary Ed Davey’s Energy Bill, which had its second reading in parliament in December and will be given royal assent later this year.

Davey has claimed that green energy measures at the heart of the bill could save householders £166 a year by 2020. But the new pressure group, assembled by big businesses in recent months, will warn that the government’s £200 billion low-carbon overhaul of Britain’s energy supplies could have the country “sleepwalking into blackouts”.

The Energy Bill plans to use a mixture of pollution fines and green subsidies to replace coal-fired power stations with dearer, low-carbon alternatives.

But the Powerline, bankrolled by big companies from various industries, counters that the plan will push up energy bills and hobble the UK’s industrial competitiveness.

It says its aim after a launch – coming in the next two weeks, which will include advertising, a new website and social media presence – is to “start applying logic” to the debate.

One of the group’s main arguments will be that the average annual household bill has doubled to £1,340 in the past five years and the dash to green energy will exacerbate the situation.

The Powerline asserts that big energy changes have occurred worldwide since the coalition’s energy policy was conceived, in particular the shale gas boom in the United States. The group says that a fundamental rethink is thus required in a context of “dispassionate debate”.

An internal Powerline memo published yesterday said: “The Powerline has been set up to create a new voice that seeks to illuminate [the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s] absurd and often contradictory positions and their impact on Britain, especially the risk of an energy crunch.

“Our ambition is to stop Britain sleepwalking into blackouts, soaring energy bills and a desert of lost jobs that have relocated out of Britain as a result.”

Today, the carbon price floor, a new tax on corporate polluters, becomes operational, which critics say will burden domestic manufacturers with even greater overheads.

The Powerline’s launch comes as the government is locked in talks with EDF Energy over subsidies for the UK’s first nuclear power stations in two decades.