People will not be told to use less energy this winter, the climate minister has said, adding: “We’re not a nanny state government.”
Graham Stuart’s remarks come amid reports No 10 has blocked a public information campaign to encourage people to consume less.
Asked if people should use less energy, Stuart told Sky News: “We are not sending that out as a message. All of us have bills, of course, and the bills have gone up.” He said the government had stepped in to “protect” businesses and families from rising energy bills.
Stuart later outlined why a general message to use less energy would “probably make no difference”.
“We’re also hesitant to tell people what they should do when we’re not a nanny-state government,” he told LBC. “What we are prepared to do is talk to the big energy users and talk to consumers with smart technology about rewarding them for reducing energy at the peak times.”
The Times reported that Liz Truss has ruled out launching an energy-saving public information campaign despite warnings planned blackouts could hit the UK if power plants cannot get enough gas to keep running.
The business secretary, Jacob Rees-Mogg, is believed to have backed a £15m campaign this winter with measures designed to help people save up to £300 a year, including lowering the temperature of boilers, turning off radiators in empty rooms and advising people to turn off the heating when they go out.
The Times quoted a government source describing the campaign as a “no-brainer” and said No 10 had made a “stupid decision”, but it added Truss is said to be “ideologically opposed” to such an approach as it could be too interventionist.
The prime minister said in her party conference speech that she would not tell people what to do. Rather than a new public information campaign the government is looking at “signposting” existing guidance.
Stuart told Sky News he did not recognise the reports. “I don’t recognise that,” he said. “We are in an iterative process of policy development and ideas, and we come to a conclusion. So, the idea there was some highly developed campaign … passionately devoted to and No 10 nixed it, I don’t recognise that.”
Truss on Thursday sought to downplay concerns, although she stopped short of explicitly offering a guarantee of no blackouts. Her remarks came in response to a report from the body that oversees Britain’s electricity grid.
In what it called an “unlikely” worst-case scenario, the National Grid’s Electricity System Operator (ESO) said households and businesses might face planned three-hour outages to ensure that the grid did not collapse. It was the most dire of three possible scenarios the ESO laid out on Thursday for how the grid might cope with the worst global energy crisis for decades.
In the other two scenarios, the operator hopes that by paying people to charge their electric cars at off-peak times, and firing up back-up coal plants, it can offset the risk of blackouts.
A government spokesperson said: “The UK has a secure and diverse energy system. We have plans to protect households and businesses in the full range of scenarios this winter, in light of Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine.
“To strengthen this position further, we have put plans in place to secure supply and National Grid, working alongside energy suppliers and Ofgem, will launch a voluntary service to reward users who reduce demand at peak times.
“We will continue to work internationally on tackling rising energy prices and ensuring security of supply, but there are no current plans to follow the EU’s decision. However, ministers are not launching a public information campaign and any claim otherwise is untrue.”