Five questions answered on Centrica’s £10bn gas deal

Deal to safeguard UK energy.

British Gas owner, Centrica, has today announced that it has stuck a deal with America to secure future gas for the UK. We answer five questions on the deal.

What are the details of the deal?

The company have struck a ten year deal with American Cheniere Energy Partners for £10bn to  supply 91,250,000 mmbtu (89 billion cubic feet) of annual liquefied natural gas (LNG), ensuring UK gas supply in the near future.

How many homes do Centrica expect to supply via this gas deal?

As many as 1.8 million homes.

What else has Centrica said about the deal?

Sam Laidlaw, Chief Executive of Centrica, said in a press statement: “In an increasingly global gas market, this landmark agreement represents a significant step forward in our strategy, enabling Centrica to strengthen its position along the gas value chain and helping to ensure the UK’s future energy security.”

In the same statement the Prime Minister David Cameron also said: “I warmly welcome this commercial agreement between Centrica and Cheniere.  Future gas supplies from the US will help diversify our energy mix and provide British consumers with a new long-term, secure and affordable source of fuel."

Will the deal help the recent gas shortage caused by the ongoing cold weather?

No, as the Louisiana-based plant will not begin its first shipments to the UK until 2018.

UK demand is currently running 32 per cent above normal seasonal demand.

However, a shipment from Qatar is to dock in Milford Haven today, to ease pressure on supply.

What has the government said about this recent strain on the UK gas supply?

Energy minister John Hayes yesterday said there was no gas shortage crisis, speaking to the Telegraph he said: “We get our supplies from a diverse range of sources and the market is proving to be highly responsive to the UK’s needs,”

Photograph: Getty Images

Heidi Vella is a features writer for Nridigital.com

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Cabinet audit: what does the appointment of Andrea Leadsom as Environment Secretary mean for policy?

The political and policy-based implications of the new Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

A little over a week into Andrea Leadsom’s new role as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and senior industry figures are already questioning her credentials. A growing list of campaigners have called for her resignation, and even the Cabinet Office implied that her department's responsibilities will be downgraded.

So far, so bad.

The appointment would appear to be something of a consolation prize, coming just days after Leadsom pulled out of the Conservative leadership race and allowed Theresa May to enter No 10 unopposed.

Yet while Leadsom may have been able to twist the truth on her CV in the City, no amount of tampering will improve the agriculture-related side to her record: one barely exists. In fact, recent statements made on the subject have only added to her reputation for vacuous opinion: “It would make so much more sense if those with the big fields do the sheep, and those with the hill farms do the butterflies,” she told an audience assembled for a referendum debate. No matter the livelihoods of thousands of the UK’s hilltop sheep farmers, then? No need for butterflies outside of national parks?

Normally such a lack of experience is unsurprising. The department has gained a reputation as something of a ministerial backwater; a useful place to send problematic colleagues for some sobering time-out.

But these are not normal times.

As Brexit negotiations unfold, Defra will be central to establishing new, domestic policies for UK food and farming; sectors worth around £108bn to the economy and responsible for employing one in eight of the population.

In this context, Leadsom’s appointment seems, at best, a misguided attempt to make the architects of Brexit either live up to their promises or be seen to fail in the attempt.

At worst, May might actually think she is a good fit for the job. Leadsom’s one, water-tight credential – her commitment to opposing restraints on industry – certainly has its upsides for a Prime Minister in need of an alternative to the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP); a policy responsible for around 40 per cent the entire EU budget.

Why not leave such a daunting task in the hands of someone with an instinct for “abolishing” subsidies  thus freeing up money to spend elsewhere?

As with most things to do with the EU, CAP has some major cons and some equally compelling pros. Take the fact that 80 per cent of CAP aid is paid out to the richest 25 per cent of farmers (most of whom are either landed gentry or vast, industrialised, mega-farmers). But then offset this against the provision of vital lifelines for some of the UK’s most conscientious, local and insecure of food producers.

The NFU told the New Statesman that there are many issues in need of urgent attention; from an improved Basic Payment Scheme, to guarantees for agri-environment funding, and a commitment to the 25-year TB eradication strategy. But that they also hope, above all, “that Mrs Leadsom will champion British food and farming. Our industry has a great story to tell”.

The construction of a new domestic agricultural policy is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Britain to truly decide where its priorities for food and environment lie, as well as to which kind of farmers (as well as which countries) it wants to delegate their delivery.

In the context of so much uncertainty and such great opportunity, Leadsom has a tough job ahead of her. And no amount of “speaking as a mother” will change that.

India Bourke is the New Statesman's editorial assistant.