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After years of talk about the green revolution as a far-off eventuality, it has finally collided with the real world, and everyone is running for cover.

What is certain is that the penny has finally dropped. One in four households is now “fuel poor”, which means that more than 10% of its net income goes on energy bills. Things are going to get worse — and not just because unemployment last week hit a 17-year high. Britain is on the cusp of a £200 billion low-carbon overhaul. The government wants to replace our dirty coal-fired stations with expensive offshore wind farms and nuclear reactors to meet climate change targets. The makeover is the biggest since North Sea oil and gas came on stream in the 1970s — and you and I will pay for it. Analysts said the average domestic energy bill could hit £1,800 a year by 2020.

After years of talk about the green revolution as a far-off eventuality, it has finally collided with the real world, and everyone is running for cover.

“It’s here now. Cheques are going to have to be written to build this stuff,” said Mark Powell at KPMG. “But the world has changed and all of a sudden the question of affordability has come front and centre.”

That is what the government aims to tackle tomorrow. Huhne has called a “consumer energy summit” at his department’s offices in Whitehall. The showdown will bring executives, consumer groups and Ofgem into the same room. Ostensibly, the purpose is to hash out how to help the hard-up get through the winter.

Yet for the industry the meeting is about much more than the next few months. It is about one of the world’s biggest industrial undertakings. It is about the government’s faltering attempts to shape it, while at the same time bashing the industry for the inconvenient consequences of the very policies it has chosen to pursue.

The Big Six are tired of carrying the can. “We need an honest debate about the consequences of the investment required and the impact on bills,” said Phil Bentley, managing director of British Gas, the country’s biggest energy supplier.

“The energy industry isn’t trusted and we accept we have to do something about that. But we also want honesty about the data. If the government is quoting misleading numbers, it makes everyone look stupid and confuses the public.”

George Osborne, the chancellor, dropped a bombshell in Manchester this month. There he was at the Tory party conference, holding forth on his plan to revive the flagging economy. And then he said it. “We’re not going to save the planet by putting our country out of business … so let’s at the very least resolve that we’re going to cut our carbon emissions no slower but also no faster than our fellow countries in Europe.”

It was a stunning reversal. After all, it was the chancellor who just seven months earlier had unveiled a new carbon tax on industry, which would make Britain the first country in the world to impose a domestic carbon levy.

Civitas, the think tank, said it amounted to “economic suicide”. Industry revolted, and Osborne seems to have listened.

Yet just down the road from No 11, Huhne seems to have different ideas. In May the energy secretary made Britain the first country in the world to commit to emission reduction targets beyond 2020. By 2027, he wants us to halve carbon dioxide emissions from the 1990 level.

Osborne may be slowing down, but Huhne shows no such signs. An executive said: “The Treasury seems to be moving in one direction, while Huhne is going another. It’s hard to tell who is actually driving the bus.”

One thing they can both agree on, however, is that the energy companies deserve a good kicking. They haven’t done themselves any favours. An investigation by Which?, the consumer group, found that when the Big Six were asked by callers for the lowest tariffs, a third of the time the best deals were not offered.

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see also: Has Mr Indestructible met his match?

By James Forsyth

Liam Fox’s departure turns the spotlight back on to Chris Huhne, the Cabinet member who, until Fox’s troubles, was the favourite to be the next to leave the Government.

But the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, who still has the threat of prosecution hanging over him for allegedly passing off speeding points on to his then wife, shows no sign of being bothered by all of the scrapes he keeps getting into. He has the thickest hide in Westminster.

Tomorrow, Huhne will co-chair an energy summit with the Prime Minister.

The event is designed to show that the Coalition is doing its bit to keep a lid on energy prices. He will announce plans to make it easier for consumers to switch both their tariff and the energy company they use in an attempt to help keep bills down.

But Huhne faces a major fight to preserve his green agenda in the face of mounting opposition from Chancellor George Osborne, who increasingly views it as an impediment to growth.

One senior Tory tells me: ‘There is a Huhne-Osborne war going on, which Osborne is not going to lose.’

Huhne, though, is nothing if not resilient. When I asked one Liberal Democrat what it would take to shake his self-belief, he replied: ‘A small nuclear device.’

Mail on Sunday, 16 October 2011