The classic energy trilemma of decarbonisation, security and affordability has been replaced in the UK by: Who pays? How much? And for what?

That’s the view of Angela Knight (pictured), chief executive of trade group Energy UK, who believes that Britain is now in the midst of a backlash against its green policies.Angela Knight

As public awareness increases over the percentage of their energy bills that go towards green levies to support renewables, she said Britain was suffering from the after effects of political parties trying to outdo each other to see “who can be the greenest”.

She said when initiatives were launched to generate the investment in – and the deployment of – renewable energies, particularly offshore wind, “MPs had no conception of the costs involved.”

“We did not have a serious debate about climate change – it became about who can be the greenest,” she told the Energy Live 2013 conference in London yesterday.

She said that while the decarbonisation third of the original energy trilemma had been addressed in law, “what about the security of supply and affordability”?

She added that energy firms in the UK – which have hit the headlines over increases to fuel bills – now had an uphill struggle to win over consumers.

“Trust is easy to lose and fantastically hard to get back.”

Knight, however, was keen to stress the upside of the UK energy industry, which last year attracted £11.6bn ($18.5bn) in private sector investment – more than was put into transport and more than the public sector pumped into education.

A report published this week by consultants at EY and commissioned by EnergyUK found that the British energy industry now supports one in every 45 jobs in the UK.

The report found that last year the energy sector directly contributed £24bn to the UK economy, up from £21bn in 2011, and a further £78bn indirectly through supply chain activities.

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