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Calls For Urgent 'Beast From East' Gas Crisis Meeting

Friday, March 2, 2018

GMB CALLS FOR URGENT MEETING WITH GOVERNMENT TO ADDRESS ‘BEAST FROM EAST’ GAS SUPPLY CRISIS

We will continue to need gas over the short to medium term - the question is where that gas comes from and fundamentally where we can store it in sufficient quantity to guarantee supply and stable prices says GMB.

GMB, the gas and energy workers union, has today written to the Minister for Energy and Clean Growth Claire Perry calling for urgent meeting with trade unions and industry association to address the ‘Beast from the East’ gas crisis.

As Britain was battered by the coldest March weather on record, National Grid issued a stark warning the UK might not have enough gas to meet demand. [1]

Gas heats 85% of UK homes and provides nearly half of our electricity - we need to make sure our supply is safe, secure, and in our own hands.

Stuart Fegan, GMB National Officer, wrote:

“You will be aware of the media coverage yesterday surrounding the gas deficit warning issued by National Grid. I note with grave concern that not one representative from BEIS was put up for media comment, or to reassure the public and industry during this unprecedented weather, on what is being done by government to alleviate the problems in gas supply and reduce energy price volatility.

“GMB is surprised and disappointed by the lack of response from BEIS, particularly as the previous Minister, Richard Harrington, had already side-stepped these issues in his response (7 December 2017) to a detailed letter sent to Secretary of State Greg Clark on 15 November 2017 and signed by a number of leading industry associations and trades unions including GMB.

“Industry and unions wrote again specifically to you on 5th February 2018, setting out our very real concerns over gas security and unprecedented spikes in both gas and electricity prices (particularly since the closure of the Rough Storage facility last year). As you know we requested a meeting with you to explain our case for an immediate and urgent inquiry into gas and energy price security with particular reference to the adequacy of UK gas storage and what Government could do to underpin existing and new investment in gas storage.

“This industry-wide proposal now has widespread support in the media and amongst expert opinion-formers. We were therefore very disappointed that only a few days ago you declined our request for a meeting. As you are well aware, gas heats 85% of UK homes and provides just under half our electricity needs. It is also vital for tens of thousands of jobs, in ceramics, paper and steel (to name just a few industries). Gas is also fundamental to any meaningful fuel poverty strategy. There is no doubt that we will continue to need gas over the short to medium term, the question is where that gas comes from?

“And fundamentally where we can store it in sufficient quantities to guarantee supply and mitigate price volatility. We are already importing most of our gas into the UK and the level of import dependency is forecast to increase sharply, unless we consider alternatives such as Shale Gas Extraction which, potentially, could make the UK energy sufficient for up to fifty years; if we just got on and accessed how much is there which can be viably extracted. Government must take a lead in this without further procrastination. While we transition to a world of increasing renewable usage in the UK, we must maintain a balanced and mixed energy policy in which reliable sources such as nuclear and gas are key.

“As the last few days have shown, we are seriously vulnerable in this regard and a long way from the energy self-sufficiency and reliance that would make common sense in the uncertainty of a post-Brexit world. We will be attending the BEIS workshop on gas security scheduled for 16 March but a two-hour workshop allows barely enough time to list the issues never mind analyse the problem and identify possible solutions.

“Recent events highlight that a far more comprehensive and urgent investigation is required’ which can address all the issues. You have declined to meet us but we in the circumstances the GMB would urge you to re-consider meeting with ourselves and industry colleagues as soon as possible. The future welfare of the citizens of this country along with hundreds of thousands of jobs and our wider prosperity are at risk, if no action is taken.“

ENDS

Contact: Stuart Fegan on 07912 890434 or GMB Press Office on 07958 156846 or atpress.office@gmb.org.uk

Notes to editors

[1] http://www.gmb.org.uk/newsroom/worrying-gas-shortage

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