Britain imports about 20 per cent of its gas needs but this will probably rise to 80 per cent in the next 12 years, Business Minister Lord Jones of Birmingham warned last night.

The strategy for ensuring secure energy supplies "must evolve", said the peer as he moved the second reading in the Lords of the Energy Bill, which updates the legislative framework governing energy. The Bill deals with gas importation and storage, electricity from renewable sources, decommissioning of energy installations, and petroleum licences.

Lord Jones said: "We have increasingly been relying on international energy markets. Our strategy for ensuring secure energy supplies must evolve. We must not be dependent on unstable and sometimes conflicting economies elsewhere in the world.

"Part of this evolution will be a growing need for new offshore gas storage. It is important to ensure that there is a clear regulatory framework which will support the private sector investment in this type of project"

The Bill created a new regulatory and licensing framework "specifically designed for offshore gas storage and offshore liquefied natural gas unloading projects."

He added: "It also focuses on electricity generated from renewable sources. We are committed to an increasing role for renewables in the UK's energy mix.

"We expect offshore wind to make a significant contribution to renewable energy in the UK in the future."

The Bill "will ensure that we have the right environment to encourage timely investment and increase the diversity and low-carbon nature of our energy supplies".