The closure and subsequent re-opening of the UK’s largest gas storage site cost the country nearly £1.7 billion over two years, Labour has said.
The party has blamed the Conservatives for what it has labelled a costly mistake, as Labour accused ministers of ignoring warnings about the winding down of the Rough storage facility under the North Sea.
The storage site had been mothballed from 2017 but was partially reopened last year, when it was able to store around 30 billion cubic feet (bcf) of gas.
Centrica last month increased capacity at the site, the UK’s largest facility, in order to provide the firm with a bigger safety cushion for next Winter.
Labour said that with more storage, the UK could have bought gas more cheaply now and stored it for use over the winter.
But it said that the lack of capacity would now cost the country dear.
Labour said that the UK’s storage capacity is 2% of annual demand, a fraction of the equivalent figures in Germany, Italy, France and the Netherlands.
“Despite warnings this Tory government shut down gas storage and once again left working people paying the price for their sticking plaster approach,” shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said.
“Yet another failure on energy security hasn’t just left families paying more, it’s left us exposed and reliant on others.
“Instead of investing in homegrown energy to lower bills, create jobs and strengthen our energy security, they are happy to keep laying the costs on working family.”
Labour said that the UK was paying £685 million over the odds for winter gas this year, after paying out £967 million extra last year due to the lack of gas storage facilities.
The Opposition said that that the Government’s mistake was piling pressure on already hard-pressed families.
“Built on the rock of economic responsibility, Labour will drive forward the industries of the future – working in partnership with businesses and workers – to sort out these Tory energy failures, get bills down and restore some economic security,” Ms Reeves said.
Energy Security Secretary Grant Shapps hit back at Labour.
“We will take no lessons on energy security from the party that wants to ban new oil and gas licences in the North Sea, risking hundreds of thousands of British jobs, handing control of our energy to countries like Russia, and hiking up prices.
“Meanwhile, we are reinforcing our energy security by securing almost £200 billion of investment into low-carbon energy projects since 2010, backing new nuclear and floating offshore wind, and investing in low-carbon alternatives – helping to grow our economy.”