LONDON, March 5 Britain's dependence on gas
imports will rise to 70 percent by 2020 and the country needs to
secure more supply from a variety of sources to meet that
demand, the chief executive of Britain's biggest utility,
Centrica, said on Wednesday.
Britain's own gas production has slumped from a peak around
the turn of the century and output rates are expected to fall
further as resources decline, exposing the country to increasing
imports from abroad.
Centrica, which is the owner of Britain's largest household
energy supplier British Gas, has signed long-term supply deals
with gas producers including Qatargas and Cheniere in
the United States.
"By 2020 we will be reliant on imports to meet 70 per cent
of the country's gas needs. So when it comes to security of
supply, there is a pressing need for solutions," Centrica chief
executive Sam Laidlaw told a conference in Houston.
Centrica has also taken a small stake in a shale gas licence
in Britain anticipating that the unconventional fuel will help
dampen Britain's import dependence.
Laidlaw also said that political interventions in Britain's
energy market were fragmenting the industry.
Last autumn, a fierce public debate erupted about the
affordability of energy bills after UK opposition leader Ed
Miliband promised to freeze energy prices if his Labour Party is
elected next year.
Britain's current energy secretary, Ed Davey, added to
political pressure on Centrica last month when he said its
British Gas unit may need to be broken up because its profit
margins were excessive.
"Political uncertainty is the enemy of investment. As a
result, investment in new UK generating capacity has virtually
ground to a halt," Laidlaw said.
Britain is in danger of a power capacity crunch from next
year when a number of old and polluting coal-fired power plants
have to shut down.
Uncertainty about government reform of the electricity
market has resulted in a drop in investments into new stations,
meaning that currently not enough new capacity is coming online
to replace the old plants.