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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 March, 2004, 11:56 GMT
The IF Debate

"If... the lights go out" paints a frightening scenario of Britain possibly running out of electricity in a few years time. But could it really happen like that? And if so, why aren't government and industry doing more to protect us?

In a special Newsnight debate following the programme, Jeremy Paxman talked to politicians, the head of one of Britain's biggest power generators, and to others with a range of views about just how worried we should be. We asked whether we can have electricity that's cheap, secure, and environmentally friendly. Will we, as consumers, have to end up paying more?

In the studio was Paul Golby, the head of Powergen, which supplies 15% of this country's electricity; Dieter Helm, a leading energy economist who believes the government is relying too much on the market to tackle a looming energy shortage; Jeremy Nicholson, who represents many of the big industrial consumers of electricity; and Dr Catherine Mitchell, who had a leading role in devising the government's sustainable energy policy.

Then we put representatives from the three main political parties on the spot. What guarantees would they give to the public that the lights will stay on? And what role would nuclear power and renewable sources play in their energy policies?



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