It’s not often that a representative from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) shows much in the way of emotion on a subject. Secretary of state Amber Rudd rarely changes tone – except on her few Question Time appearances when an audience member usually gets an earful – while anyone who’s watched Lord Bourne’s speeches or committee hearings will recognise the deliberate nature of his delivery.

And then there’s Andrea Leadsom, the usually mild-mannered energy minister who until recently when she came out for Brexit, rarely attracted much attention. Unless tagging in for Rudd during DECC orals, Leadsom seems quite content to go about her business in a quiet and often unnoticed manner.

It was therefore all the more surprising last week when this demeanour slipped during a delegated legislation committee session on the early closure of the Renewables Obligation for sub-5MW projects. Faced with a barrage of opposition from Labour’s Alan Whitehead, Melanie Onn and Helen Hayes, plus the SNP’s Callum McCaig and energy and climate change committee chair Angus MacNeil, Leadsom was backed into a corner and responded in unpredictable fashion.

“I have to say that I'm actually getting quite sick and tired of the complete barricade of complaints from members opposite about a failure to stop subsidising at a time when subsidies are no longer necessary at the same level they were on one day and on the very next day, or perhaps the next week, complaining about fuel poverty and throwing stones at the government for not doing enough to reduce bills to consumers.

“They can't have it both ways. They really do need to decide do they want subsidies to continue regardless of the impact on bills? They complain about fuel poverty and they complain about bothering to make the effort to save an impact on consumer bills when it’s only a £1, it's only £60 million, it's only £100 million, it's only £2 billion over twenty years; why is that worth saving? Because this government's policy is to be that consumer champion, to make sure we decarbonise at the lowest cost.”

She refused to give way to MacNeil, telling him to “stop peddling this” – presumably referring to his legitimate concerns over the closure of the RO – and, after claiming the government had consulted and drawn its conclusions, said: “That’s the end of it.” 

This may not seem that ground-breaking but sessions like these are usually so dry that anything to liven up the room comes as a surprise. Even the Scottish contingent in the room, usually a rowdy crowd themselves, seemed taken aback by the outburst, particularly as Leadsom’s opening statements would have done Lord Bourne proud.

But the facts against her case remain. Much of the criticism levelled at DECC via the energy minister reflects the ongoing attitudes across parliament and industry regarding DECC’s changes to renewables policy. The early closure of the RO – confirmed by 10 ayes to 8 nos at the end of the session – resulted in legal action against the department which was only settled last week, and Leadsom was accurate when she said she had faced a barricade of complaints.

Whitehead called the decision “a damaging measure that should have never been considered in the first place”, while Hayes branded it “short-sighted and unnecessary”.

Further pressure was placed on the minister around the Levy Control Framework after a report from MacNeil’s committee recently called for far more transparency around the cost-controlling measure.

While Leadsom claimed this couldn’t be done because of “the potential disclosure of commercially confidential information”, the growing pressure on the department (and the ongoing National Audit Office investigation) could lead the dam to break and with any luck, a flood of information on the LCF assumptions and calculations within.

Until then, we can only hope more DECC ministers give in to their primal urges and lash out at opposition. It wouldn’t make their decisions any more palatable, but it does make for good Parliament TV.