Rishi Sunak has set out plans to make Britain “energy secure” – including boosting North Sea gas production – as he seeks to make up ground in the Tory leadership race.
The former chancellor said he would legislate to make the UK “energy independent” by 2045 at the latest as he vowed to ensure there is no repeat of the looming winter crisis.
He confirmed that if he becomes prime minister on September 5, he would put in place immediate support for households – particularly the most vulnerable – faced with soaring energy bills.
At the same time he pledged urgent action to drive up domestic energy supply with the creation of a new energy security task force and deregulation in the North Sea to allow gas production to increase over the winter.
Regulations governing offshore wind, rooftop solar and nuclear would be overhauled to scale up supply, while fracking for shale gas would be allowed where there is local consent.
Mr Sunak said he would also take steps to radically reduce energy waste, with low cost measures to insulate millions of homes.
In the longer term, he promised to reform the energy market – which was no longer “fit for purpose” – to cut bills, with the establishment of a new dedicated energy department to lead the change.
His intervention came after analysts warned the average annual household energy bill could top £5,000 by next spring as the war in Ukraine continues to drive up the cost of oil and gas.
“The first rule of any crisis is to acknowledge that you are facing one. We are facing an energy crisis and I have a plan to both get us through it and make sure this is a one winter crunch,” Mr Sunak said.
“I will lead a national effort to increase our domestic energy supply and cut our energy waste. I will also make sure our country is never put into this position again.
“I will leave no stone unturned to secure British energy sovereignty. We cannot rely on imported energy so I will legislate for the UK to be entirely energy independent by 2045 to accelerate investment.
“My plan will get us through this winter crisis and provide energy security for Britain.”
Mr Sunak has acknowledged that he remains the underdog in the contest to succeed Boris Johnson, with polling suggesting a strong lead for Foreign Secretary Liz Truss among Tory party members who will decide the outcome.
Mr Sunak’s plans to boost North Sea gas production and to allow fracking were condemned by climate change campaigners.
Greenpeace UK’s policy director, Doug Parr, said: “Has Rishi Sunak just been sat under an air conditioning unit all day?
“Despite the searing temperatures and drought declared by his own Government, his plans for energy independence have completely ignored the fact that we’re also grappling with a climate crisis.
“Someone should also remind him that his Government has already made a legally binding commitment to cut emissions to zero by 2050.”