The government yesterday unveiled an array of measures, from nuclear new-build to phasing out the standby setting on computers. It said these would take the UK closer towards meeting its target of cutting carbon emissions by 60% of 1990 levels by 2050 and helping to secure energy supplies in the long term.

Energy minister Malcolm Wicks said the measures should cut UK carbon emissions by between 19m and 25m tonnes by 2020 - the equivalent of the annual emissions of Greece or Austria. The cuts are over and above those put forward under the Climate Change Review Programme.

The government's review concludes that under "likely scenarios" there is an economic case for building new nuclear power stations to replace the reactors which currently produce around a fifth of Britain's electricity.

"Government believes that nuclear has a role to play in the future UK generating mix alongside other low-carbon options," it says.

The government is to give a big boost to the renewables sector by raising the amount of electricity suppliers have to generate or buy from renewable sources or face financial penalties.

Companies generating electricity from, say, wind farms are given renewable obligation certificates (ROCs) which are sold on to other suppliers to meet their obligations. The government is proposing to raise the renewable obligations level to 20% by 2020. That compares with about 4% at present and the previously planned ceiling of 15% by 2015-16. It is also considering the renewable obligations programme to favour emerging renewable technologies, such as offshore wind, wave and tidal power over those which have already established themselves.

The review is pushing industry watchdog Ofgem and the transmission companies to resolve the problems which have, at times, made it difficult for renewable generators to hook up to the national electricity grid. In addition a new fund - the Environmental Transformation Fund, to support renewable energy and other non-nuclear low carbon technologies - will be announced as part of the comprehensive spending review next year.


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