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Government reveals 'new direction' for energy policy

Government reveals 'new direction' for energy policy

Government reveals 'new direction' for energy policy

Homeowners and businesses are set to see some major changes in the way energy is generated and delivered in the UK, the government has revealed.

During a speech at the Institution of Civil Engineers, energy and climate change secretary Amber Rudd outlined plans for an energy industry that encourages competition, guarantees enough electricity for the whole country and "puts consumers first".

The measures are designed to address some of the problems in the current system, such as the fact that the UK's reliance on coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel, hasn't diminished despite the substantial growth in renewables.

Ms Rudd pointed out that the proportion of the country's electricity delivered by coal was higher last year than in 1999.

In light of this, she acknowledged that "we still haven't found the right balance".

One of the most significant changes planned by the government over the coming years is to close all coal-fired power stations by 2025.

A consultation due to be launched in spring 2016 will set out proposals for restricting use of coal from 2023 and eliminating it entirely by 2025.

Ms Rudd said replacing coal-fired power stations with gas is "one of the greatest and most cost-effective contributions we can make to emission reductions in electricity".

"If we take this step, we will be one of the first developed countries to deliver on a commitment to take coal off the system," she added.

"But let me be clear: we'll only proceed if we're confident that the shift to new gas can be achieved within these timescales."

For many companies and consumers, one of the key priorities in terms of future energy generation is sustainability.

The government has recently attracted criticism for failing to show enough support for renewables such as wind and solar power.

Ms Rudd said the offshore wind sector will receive financial backing "if, and only if" it is able to meet government conditions regarding cost reductions.

"The industry tells us they can meet that challenge, and we will hold them to it," the energy and climate change secretary added. "If they don't there will be no subsidy. No more blank cheques."

Under current plans, an additional 10GW of offshore wind capacity will be installed by 2020.

The government also reiterated its commitment to tackling climate change ahead of the December conference in Paris, but stressed that this is a global problem that requires collaboration across businesses, governments, regions and nations.

In its response to Ms Rudd's speech, the Renewable Energy Association (REA) said the government was continuing to favour fossil fuels over renewables and failing to support a sector that has achieved big improvements in cost effectiveness.

REA head of policy and external affairs James Court said prioritising higher-cost technologies like nuclear power over renewables like onshore wind, solar and biomass will mean higher bills for consumers.

"We need government intervention to build any new energy infrastructure the UK needs, but the announcements today will mean subsidising too much fossil fuel, for too long," he added.

 

Posted by Julie Tucker

Image courtesy of Liquid Library