Greener energy 'to cost £2 a week'
The cost of Government support for low-carbon electricity under the new Energy Bill will add less than £100 to the average household's bills annually, Energy Secretary Ed Davey said.
Critics claim that the legislation will send consumers' bills soaring, by authorising ministers to put £7.6 billion towards "green" power generation in 2020, up from £2.35 billion this year.
But environmentalists say the Bill does not go far enough, because it does not include a target to slash carbon emissions from the power sector by 2030 - although it does include the power to set a target in 2016 if it is considered necessary.
An estimated £110 billion is needed in the next decade to renew the UK's ageing electricity infrastructure, with much set to go into low-carbon power sources such as wind farms to cut emissions and keep the lights on.
The forthcoming Energy Bill, which aims to drive the investment, has been the subject of political wrangling within the coalition, with Mr Davey voicing support for long-term limits on carbon emissions by the power sector and Chancellor George Osborne backing a second "dash for gas" with support for new gas power plants as a cheap source of electricity and tax relief for unconventional shale gas exploration in the UK.
But agreement has now been reached on a series of contentious issues.
In a statement, Mr Davey hailed a "durable agreement" which would allow him to introduce a Bill next week and have essential electricity market reforms up and running by 2014, as planned. "They will allow us to meet our legally-binding carbon reduction and renewable energy obligations and will bring on the investment required to keep the lights on and bills affordable for consumers," he said.
Labour condemned the Bill's failure to set a limit for the amount of carbon dioxide that can be emitted per megawatt hour of power from the electricity sector by 2030 - something which the party's leader Ed Miliband backed in a speech on Thursday and which supporters say is necessary to give investors certainty to back renewables, carbon capture and storage technology, and nuclear reactors in the UK.
Shadow energy and climate change secretary Caroline Flint said: "It is outrageous that on the day Ed Miliband committed to a tough cut in Britain's carbon levels by 2030, George Osborne and Ed Davey abandoned their target. This is a humiliating failure by the Liberal Democrats and a betrayal of David Cameron's promise to be the greenest government ever."
Environmental campaigners also reacted angrily to the news. John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace, described it as "a blatant assault on the greening of the UK economy that leaves consumers vulnerable to rising gas prices, and sends billions of pounds of clean-tech investment to our economic rivals".