Rudd sets out energy priorities

18th November 2015


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  • Mitigation ,
  • Generation ,
  • Fossil fuels

Author

John Dwyer

New nuclear, gas and offshore wind will decarbonise the UK's energy system, energy and climate change secretary Amber Rudd said today.

In a speech at the Institution of Civil Engineers, Rudd said that the UK's energy system must prioritise consumers, deliver more competition, reduce bills and ensure sufficient production.

She said that coal-fired power stations were "not the future", stating: "Frankly, it cannot be satisfactory for an advanced economy like the UK to be relying on polluting, carbon intensive 50-year old coal-fired power stations."

Rudd promised a consultation in the spring on closing coal-fired power stations by 2025, and restricting their use from 2023. The plans take forward a pledge made last year by prime minister David Cameron. However, Rudd added that the plan would only proceed if enough new gas generation capacity to replace coal were available.

The energy and climate change secretary also pledged to hold three additional energy auctions during the current parliament, with the first held by the end of next year. The cost of contracts for offshore wind, which would be eligible for support under the auctions, has fallen by 20% in the past two years, she said.

However, she said offshore wind was still too expensive and warned that the government would not support the technology at any cost.

"Further support will be strictly conditional on the cost reductions we have seen already accelerating. The industry tells us they can meet that challenge, and we will hold them to it. If they don't there will be no subsidy, no more blank cheques," she said.

The UK must become a centre for nuclear innovation, Rudd said. In addition to the planned new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point C, plants will also be constructed at Wylfa on Anglesey and Moorside in Cumbria. The government will also explore small modular reactor technology as a new source of nuclear generation, said Rudd.

The government is proposing to remove regulations, it claims holds back demand management and energy storage, and will hold a consultation on how to decarbonise heat, Rudd said.

Plans to end coal were widely praised as a historic moment by environmental campaigners.

However, the focus on gas was not welcomed. Simon Bullock, senior energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: "UK energy policy should overwhelmingly be focused on boosting renewable power and energy efficiency. Gas is too high-carbon for a long-term future."

Doug Parr, policy director at Greenpeace, said the end of coal was "genuinely heartening", but added that plans to support gas and nuclear, while slashing support for renewables and barely mentioning energy efficiency made little economic or environmental sense.

Nick Molho, executive director of the Aldersgate Group, welcomed the announcement of further energy auctions, but said that the government must quickly provide more detail.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "Phasing out unabated coal is the right thing to do, but government cuts to support for renewables will blow the UK's chance of having a clean energy future with balanced supply. High tech jobs in green energy are under threat, and consumers will lose out on plummeting prices for wind and solar."

Rhian Kelly, CBI business environment director, said Rudd's announcement was encouraging, but added that sufficient new gas supply must be available before coal is phased out.

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