THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH (UK): Industry calls for 'ministry of energy': “A government-backed advisory group of some of Britain's largest energy companies has called for the creation of a new "super" department for energy.”: “The group includes representatives from Shell and BP, the oil giants, as well as utilities.” (ShellNews.net) 24 April 05
By Sylvia Pfeifer and Andrew Murray-Watson (Filed: 24/04/2005)
A government-backed advisory group of some of Britain's largest energy companies has called for the creation of a new "super" department for energy.
The High Level Energy Group, chaired by Sir David King, the chief scientific adviser to the Government, is understood to have put forward the idea in informal discussions with officials in recent months.
The group includes representatives from Shell and BP, the oil giants, as well as utilities. It was set up 18 months ago to help advise on the state of Britain's energy sector.
The establishment of a dedicated department for energy would be seen as a severe blow to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), which is currently responsible for the most policy decisions covering the energy sector.
The Conservatives have already outlined plans to radically slim down the DTI, while the Liberal Democrats would scrap the department altogether.
"It is one of the things being considered," an executive from a major energy group said last night. "The preference is for a consolidated organisation. Our ideal would be to have an Energy Ministry or a Department for Sustainable Development with ministerial representation."
He stressed that no formal proposals had been put to the Government so far and that no decisions would be taken before the general election on May 5, but conceded that: "Generally, there is an acceptance that this needs to be done."
Industry executives believe that the division of responsibility for the energy sector between government departments - including the DTI and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs - makes it difficult to have a cohesive approach to energy policy.
The debate has taken on greater urgency recently as issues such as securing Britain's energy supply and climate change have moved up the Government's agenda. Tony Blair has made climate change one of the priorities of Britain's presidency of the G8 later this year.
King declined to comment last night. A spokesman for the DTI said: "We don't comment on non-public meetings. The position of the DTI is that there is no proposal to set up a separate energy department."
The High Level Energy Group's desire for a separate energy department comes amid a growing consensus that Blair will announce a white paper on the future of the UK's nuclear industry if Labour is returned to power.
Blair's private ambition is for the UK to build a series of next-generation nuclear power plants to replace decommissioned facilities and to help reduce greenhouse gases. A new energy department would implement such a policy.
So far, Blair has not addressed the nuclear issue in his campaign for the general election, as it is widely perceived to be a vote loser. The most likely sites for these new plants would be existing nuclear facilities, where public acceptance of atomic generation is much higher.
Lord Birt, the former director general of the BBC, is believed to be heading a team within Number 10 to examine the challenges involved in building new nuclear plants.
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