Britain to lobby for energy deals abroad?
London (UPI) Aug 23, 2010
The No. 2 official in Britain's energy and climate department said Prime Minister David Cameron and other British politicians should start lobbying oil-rich countries to give British utilities new business.
Minister of State for Energy Charles Hendry singled out Russia and its vast oil and gas reserves as a prime target for new business and said London should help British companies in their attempts to secure contracts there.
"Looking at the potential development of the Yamal Peninsula where Prime Minister (Vladimir) Putin has actively said he wants international investment, I think it's important for a British minister to be out there supporting British companies trying to get those contracts," Hendry told the Daily Telegraph newspaper. "If you find a new international contract being signed with the Germans then (Chancellor) Angela Merkel is there or President (Nicolas) Sarkozy with the French. We send along the British ambassador who is a very fine man or woman but doesn't quite have the same political clout."
Sarkozy is especially active when it comes to lobbying for French companies, especially regarding large-scale defense and nuclear power contracts.
Hendry said London should become more involved in the energy sector as concerns mount over Britain's growing dependence on imported oil and gas.
In a bid to tackle these concerns, Hendry travels to Norway this week to discuss ways to boost oil and natural gas production in the North Sea and increase exports to Britain.
"We're very conscious we had no trouble historically attracting investment but that was a time when we were awash with oil and gas. We're now increasingly dependent on imports," he told the newspaper. "We'd be especially keen to encourage additional pipelines from Norway to come West rather than East."
The eagerness to build additional pipelines comes at a time of heightened concern for oil exploration safety standards. BP's Gulf of Mexico oil spill has alarmed regulators in Europe but Hendry said the industry was able to self-regulate.
"We think industry is in a very strong place to deal with this. They understand it's their heads on the block if they get it wrong," he said.
Britain needs additional sources of power generation when its aging coal-fired and nuclear power plants go offline by the end of the decade.
Unlike his boss Chris Huhne, Hendry is staunchly pro-nuclear. The state minister said it might be an option to keep Britain's most modern reactors running for a few years longer, a move that would mimic similar plans by Germany.
"I see that as a bonus. But it's not something we can rely on," he said.
Instead, London has high hopes for a nuclear revival with new reactors. Horizon Nuclear Power, a joint venture formed by German energy giants Eon and RWE, will build at least two new reactors at existing nuclear sites, the companies said earlier this year. Meanwhile, French utility EDF is expected to build four new nuclear power plant.
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