In the run-up to the British general election campaign, gas storage became an unlikely subject of political controversy.
When the coldest winter for many years coincided with an interruption to supplies from Norway, gas suppliers were forced to exercise the option to cut back supplies for customers on interruptible contracts. The Conservatives made great play of the fact that Britain had less than a week’s gas consumption left in storage.
That particular factoid was always pretty meaningless. It is hard to believe that Britain’s entire gas supply will ever be cut off altogether, and the rate at which gas can flow out of storage can be as important as the total volume of gas available. But even so, the Conservatives tapped into a real concern that as Britain’s domestic gas production from the North Sea declines, the country is going to need a lot more storage as a buffer against supply shocks.
Now, in a policy paper smuggled out over the Easter holiday period, the Labour government has put forward its ideas about how to answer those concerns. And in a predictable twist, its potential answers are very close to the solutions put forward by the Tories.