Sir Keir Starmer has accused the government of undermining the country’s energy security by failing to secure domestic gas storage capacity, as he warned of a “winter cost of living crisis”.
Highlighting the decision to permanently close the UK’s largest gas storage facility in 2017, the Labour leader will also criticise Boris Johnson for failing to “get a grip” of the situation.
It comes as rising global prices of gas place severe pressure on energy companies, who issued the alarm over greater volatility in costs at the time of the announced closure of the Rough storage site off the Yorkshire coast.
Experts warned earlier this week that Europe may have to tap into emergency supplies normally considered off limits, due to historically low stocks this winter, with further spikes in wholesale prices expected as temperatures drop.
Sir Keir is expected to visit the Rough site, which will be decommissioned from 2023, on Thursday and warn the country is facing a “winter cost of living crisis, and gas prices for every household are going up”.
He will also highlight data from the European Gas Storage Inventory showing the UK had the second lowest amount of gas in store per capital last month.
“The government’s failure to secure our gas storage has undermined our energy security and has left us exposed to global prices,” Sir Keir said. “This is another example of broken promises from this prime minister, being felt in the pockets of working people.”
He added: “His failure to get a grip is not only costing people now, but it’s hindering the strength of our future economy.
“The Conservative government’s limited commitment to hydrogen, a pivotal pillar in our transition to net zero, is no more than a drop in the ocean when compared to our neighbours. Their dither and delay is costing us jobs.”
The GMB union also insisted that the failure to replace the Rough gas storage facility was “utter foolishness” and that further investment in hydrogen technology could save 100,000 jobs across the country.
The organisation’s general secretary, Gary Smith, added: “In light of Storm Arwen and the electricity power outages facing many parts of the UK — ensure communities can continue to weather the elements without the heating going off with the lights”.
“Failing to replace the Rough storage facility when it closed was utter foolishness – as GMB was at pains to point out at the time. Unfortunately, and predictably, our warnings fell on deaf ears.
“We must not play fast and loose with our energy security again - but keeping our homes warm and hitting our net zero targets can go hand in hand.”
A government spokesperson said: “The current energy situation is not an issue of supply, but high global gas prices. As recent market activity has shown, domestic gas storage capacity has had little bearing on the price of gas.
“While some countries have to store gas to ensure their own security of supply, the UK benefits from access to our own gas reserves in British territorial waters and secure sources from reliable import partners, such as Norway.”