Rudd resets UK energy policy

Energy Secretary Amber Rudd has set out the Conservative Government’s priorities for energy policy for the UK, including the closure of all coal-fired power stations by 2025.

Rudd made the building of gas-fired power stations a priority and reaffirmed the UK Government’s commitment to developing a domestic shale gas industry to reduce imports.

In a speech at the Institution of Civil Engineers in London, Rudd said: “We now have an electricity system where no form of power generation, not even gas-fired power stations, can be built without government intervention. And a legacy of ageing, often unreliable plant,” said Rudd.

“Perversely, even with the huge growth in renewables, our dependence on coal - the dirtiest fossil fuel – hasn’t been reduced. Indeed a higher proportion of our electricity came from coal in 2014 than in 1999.

“So, despite intervention, we still haven’t found the right balance.”

Shale gas commitment

Rudd said that offshore wind farms would be able to compete for subsidies but only if cost reductions continue to meet ministers’ expectations.

Nuclear power also featured highly in Rudd’s speech, with the Energy Secretary pointing out the need for more stations to be built, along with consideration of the potential of small modular reactors.

The important of energy efficiency and smart grid technology were also highlighted.

‘No comfort to investors’

James Court, Head of Policy and External Affairs, at the Renewable Energy Association, said: “This speech gives no comfort to companies and investors wanting to bring down costs for renewable technologies, and leaves the whole renewable heat industry in limbo as they still wait to find out if the Renewable Heat Incentive has a future.

“Amber Rudd has yet again stated she wants to de-carbonise in the most cost-effective way, but her actions through supporting higher cost technologies, such as nuclear, at the expense of more cost-effective renewables such as onshore wind, solar and biomass, means consumers will be paying more.”

Niall Stuart, Chief Executive at trade body Scottish Renewables, added: “It appears that the Secretary of State is bending over backwards to highlight the benefits of gas-fired and nuclear power, whilst overstating the challenges of increasing our renewable energy capacity.

“It is right that we get coal off the system but there is no mention of gas already being the UK’s main source of carbon emissions, the cost of nuclear power being significantly more expensive than onshore wind and solar, nor the challenges of managing large and inflexible nuclear power plants.”

Environmental groups including Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace hailed the end of coal as an “historic moment”, but warned more needed to be done to promote renewable energy.

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