A British official in charge of the country's energy network has dismissed well-meaning efforts to advise consumers on saving on bills, such as responding to the cold weather by doing star jumps rather than turning on the domestic heating.
“I have always thought, as a minister, it is not my job to say 'Oh well, you should wear an extra jumper over the winter',” Kwasi Kwarteng told the Chatham House Second Century London Conference on Thursday.
“I think people can use their own common sense and their own judgment in these things. Different politicians have different styles.
“Some governments will say, you know, you have got to take a shower instead of a bath, we recommend doing that — that is not something that I have ever wanted to stray into.
“Where I am very wary is in actually lecturing people on whether they should wear two or three jumpers, or, as one of our heads of our energy supply companies was recommending, [do] star jumps. They were saying their customers should do star jumps to keep warm."
The business secretary used his speech to insist that new onshore wind farms should be subject to “local consent”, arguing the infrastructure cannot be imposed “top down”, something that has held back onshore wind in England, though not in Scotland or other parts of the UK
The government said in its recent energy strategy that it will not introduce “wholesale changes” to planning regulations on onshore wind which, along with a ban on subsidies for the technology that has been reversed, effectively halted the development of new farms in England.
But it will consult on “developing partnerships with a limited number of supportive communities who wish to host new onshore wind infrastructure in return for guaranteed lower energy bills”.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the wind farms are controversial because of their visual impact, and that new sites “will have a very high bar to clear” and would have to reward local residents with cheaper energy.
In its strategy, the government said its plans will “prioritise putting local communities in control”.
When it was put to Mr Kwarteng that there is concern that ministers are “pandering to some sort of Nimby-ism” on the matter, the minister acknowledged onshore wind has been “controversial in the past” but said there was now “wider agreement” that it was “the right way forward”.
“It has to be part of a local consent. We are not in China — we can't simply just impose top down where all this infrastructure goes,” he said.
Mr Kwarteng again refused to “stray into” telling people they must make certain choices to conserve energy, such as taking a shower instead of a bath.
“That is not an area where I think ministers have any responsibility or authority to comment on. So, it's a balance. And I think I am much more of a believer in nudging people and encouraging, and setting up a framework than direct encouragement.”