New gas power stations may be built
Dozens of new gas power stations could be built across the UK to help slash long-term energy prices.
Energy Secretary Ed Davey told The Times he will propose a loophole to get around costly climate change targets to stem the ever-soaring price of electricity.
Millions of families face a major jump in household bills as British Gas, the UK's largest energy supplier, announced a hike of tariffs for electricity and gas.
The average British Gas annual dual-fuel bill for gas and electricity currently stands at £1,260.
Under Mr Davey's proposals, energy companies would be allowed to dodge new emissions targets because of concerns about the cost of building wind farms and nuclear reactors. His plans would allow energy companies to sidestep having to cut their own carbon footprints - a key goal of environmental groups - if other sectors can instead cut emissions and go green cheaper through advances in technology.
Mr Davey told The Times: "Let's imagine that in 2022, a new technology comes along which makes it quicker and cheaper to decarbonise in the transport sector than it would in the energy sector. We want to make sure that policies we put in place are flexible, so that the transport sector would take up more of the slack."
He said the UK will be forced to still rely on gas in the coming decades, saying: "I think people need to be rather calmer about this debate. Gas in the next few decades is going to play a critical role in our energy and climate change strategy. It's not gas versus renewables versus nuclear. We are going to need them all."
The idea of the loophole was criticised by environmental campaigners, who said it could be exploited. Nick Molho, head of energy policy at WWF-UK, told the newspaper: "The moment that private sector investors get the perception that the target can be easily amended, that undermines the whole investment certainty that a target is expected to create."
The expected rise in household energy bills will throw households' already stretched budgets into "turmoil", consumer groups warned. Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy said: "Many British Gas customers will find the possibility of a price rise really frightening. Bill increases throw already stretched budgets into turmoil, with people forced to find more ways to scrimp and save. But there are things that people can do to save money on their fuel bills."
Citizens Advice is running a Big Energy Saving Week from October 22 to 27, when it will help consumers find ways to cut their fuel bills.