Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

`Brexit' Risks $700 Million Shock to Energy Bills, Rudd Says

  • Minister says U.K. better able to `force Putin's hand' in EU
  • EU nations invested $64 billion in U.K. utilities in 2014

A U.K. vote to leave the European Union might force gas and power bills up by 500 million pounds ($700 million) a year, Energy Secretary Amber Rudd said, warning that a “Brexit” would threaten Britain’s energy security.

“If we left the European internal market, we’d get a massive electric shock because U.K. energy costs could rocket,” Rudd said in a speech in southeast England Thursday. “However you look at it, an internal energy market helps to guarantee our energy security, which is the bedrock of our economic security. I’m not willing to play fast and loose with either.”

Rudd’s comments buttress arguments by Prime Minister David Cameron’s government that Britain is “stronger, safer and better off” within the 28-member EU as voters prepare for the June 23 referendum that polls indicate may be tight. Cameron and the bulk of his ministers have batted away accusations of scaremongering by Brexit proponents, while spelling out the financial costs and risks to trade and security of a “Leave” vote.

Rudd said that by working within 28-nation bloc, Britain has more bargaining power to diversify sources of gas and drive down prices. She also raised the specter of Russian President Vladimir Putin using gas supplies as “a tool of foreign policy.”

“We mustn’t let our energy security be hijacked as a political pawn to bring Europe to its knees,” Rudd said. “By working together in the European Union we can stop this becoming a reality. By working together as a bloc of 500 million people we have the power to force Putin’s hand. We can coordinate our response to a crisis. We can use the power of the internal market to source gas from elsewhere.”

Rudd spoke at the BritNed interconnector near Rochester in Kent, a county that’s shown significant support for the anti-EU U.K. Independence Party. The project, a joint venture between National Grid Plc and TenneT Holding BV, is a new 1-gigawatt electricity link between Britain and the Netherlands that allows power to flow across the North Sea.

‘Facile Analysis’

Amber Rudd.
Amber Rudd.
Photographer: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

UKIP attacked her comments.

“Amber Rudd’s facile analysis fails to grasp energy economics,” the party’s energy spokesman, Roger Helmer, said in an e-mailed statement. “Far from producing cheap electricity, the EU has done the opposite with some of the highest costs worldwide, relying on expensive renewables. Free from the EU’s energy rules and regulations we can offer lower-cost coal and gas and reduce the reliance on these.”

Rudd noted that investment in U.K. utility projects from elsewhere in the EU totaled 45 billion pounds in 2014.

“Being in the EU helps us attract billions of pounds of investment in our energy system and supply chain,” she said. “Taken together, this investment helps support 660,000 jobs in the U.K.’s energy sector. Does anybody really think all of that investment would continue if we left the EU, and with no extra costs?”

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