Today the Energy Secretary Amber Rudd focused on energy security and keeping prices as low as possible. The world’s first industrialised nation to end coal-powered generation is sending a strong signal ahead of the UN Climate summit in Paris. But is it strong enough and is it the right signal?
Eliot Whittington, Deputy Director of The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group, commented: “Amber Rudd set out her vision for the UK energy system in 2025, and there is much that progressive businesses, like members of The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group, will applaud: in particular her desire for a clear, consistent direction of travel, where costs are managed but the UK delivers on its carbon targets.
“The UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change has made two major announcements that will ensure the UK can hold its head up at the global climate change negotiations held in Paris at the end of the month. She has delivered both a timetable to end unabated coal, and a positive vision for the role offshore wind can play, giving a strong signal about the UK’s commitment to decarbonisation.”
“Now it has set out its refreshed intentions for the power generation sector, the UK government now needs to deliver equal clarity for how it can drive action in increasing energy efficiency for business and consumers.”
Friends of the Earth’s senior energy campaigner Simon Bullock said: “While it’s genuinely historic news that the UK will phase-out coal by 2025, this is tempered by government intentions for a huge new generation of gas-power stations, fuelled by fracking.
“UK energy policy should overwhelmingly be focussed on boosting renewable power and energy efficiency. Gas is too high-carbon for a long-term future.”
Niall Stuart, Chief Executive of Scottish Renewables, said: “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.
“With the promise of future support for gas, nuclear and offshore wind, it is totally unclear if there is any future for investment in onshore wind and solar, despite the fact that these are the cheapest forms of renewable power available. Both have the potential to make a significant contribution to future climate change targets while keeping bills down for consumers, but we will only secure deployment if they too can bid in for the long term contracts for clean power available to other technologies.
“The offshore sector will be pleased to see ministers set out ambitions for future growth in the 2020s – as long as costs continue to come down – but the delay to the next auction of long term contracts leaves two major projects off the coast of Scotland in limbo for another 12 months. It also pushes back delivery timelines for onshore wind projects on Scotland’s islands which will in turn delay the delivery of grid connections, meaning these developments will not be able to contribute to Scotland’s 100% renewable power target.
“The Government’s commitment to innovation and research is right, particularly in the crucial area of energy storage, but again they focus on everything but renewables, and there is not even a mention of the huge potential of wave and tidal energy.
“Lastly, heating accounts for 45% of the UK’s energy use and we have still to see any detail on how the Government believes it can best move us away from fossil fuels to renewables. With less than five months to go till the current funding of the Renewable Heat Incentive runs out, industry needs certainty so it can plan for the future and continue to deliver the change in the energy mix that Government wants to see.”