Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, said onshore fracking for gas is not the answer to high energy prices and the UK will instead push further into renewables and nuclear power to protect against the energy crisis.
Mr Kwarteng said in a tweet that the additional supplies generated by untapped shale reserves under Britain would do little to depress prices and that in the long term “we need to move away from gas”.
He said it would be ‘madness’ to shut down existing domestic gas sources and promised to continue supporting the North Sea, but added: ‘The more clean and cheap energy we produce at home, the less we will be exposed”. to world gas markets.
The comments are likely to infuriate fracking supporters who claim that adopting the controversial process would improve Britain’s strategic autonomy.
Wholesale gas prices have quadrupled in the UK since last summer due to a global shortage of natural gas supplies, with Russia’s war on Ukraine putting further pressure on prices due to the risk of supply disruption to Europe.
Households are expected to feel the pinch in April when the price cap on energy bills rises by 54%, pushing average bills up from £693 to £1,971.
It has fueled a huge debate over the rate at which the UK is ditching fossil fuels to cut carbon emissions and whether the country should produce more gas or find alternative energy sources.
Supporters of fracking have argued that the government should lift its ban on the practice, which was introduced in 2019 over concerns about the risk of earthquakes. The process involves blasting sand into underground rocks to release the trapped gas.
The UK currently imports around half of its gas, mostly from Norway, with some also coming from pipelines to Europe and shipments from Qatar, Russia and others.
Writing on Twitter this morning, Mr Kwarteng said the UK was not facing security of supply issues but acknowledged it was facing price issues, saying: ‘Put simply : we have a lot of gas from very diverse and secure sources – but it is very expensive. ”