As winter approaches the issue of electricity and gas bills becomes greater.  Four of the largest energy suppliers have already announced price rises. 

The average gas bill last year was already around £700, electricity £470.  So I was glad to see the Government moving to tackle energy prices.

Last week the Prime Minister announced that a new Energy Bill will put more obligations on energy companies to ensure that all customers have access to the lowest tariffs.

The aim is to promote greater competition between providers, and lead to better deals for consumers.

But there are wider questions about Britain's energy supply and security.  We are far too dependent on fossil fuels, which still generate three quarters of our electricity. 

Oil and gas stocks are diminishing, there is little spare capacity in our system, and most nuclear power stations are due to close.

Some say that shale gas, found inland, is the answer, but this shouldn't be over-egged - and there may be issues for affected communities.

So even if we were not concerned to generate cleaner energy - and I think we should be - we would still want to diversify our energy supply.  And the rub is that whether that means more nuclear or newer technologies such as wind, there will be cost.

At a time when consumers already face rising bills, we need to minimise that cost.  So I was pleased that the Climate Change Minister recently said that the green industry needed to "tighten their belts, do more for less and make subsidies go further" to get a better deal for the taxpayer.

He promised that the Coalition would "cut subsidy where we can and put value for money at the heart of our policies".

Most of us would agree that wind turbines on the Downs are out of the question on such an important landscape.  But I do think that offshore wind is worth pursuing, which is why I have not opposed the planned Rampion wind farm off the West Sussex coast.

Nuclear power will also need to be part of the energy mix.  With safe options for the disposal of nuclear waste, this can be a safe and clean way to generate energy.

Here's one sobering fact.  Oil-rich Saudi Arabia wants to diversify its energy to include low-carbon sources.  That should give us pause for thought.

Christopher N Howarth