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UK energy policy: one step forward, one step back - 18 November


Amber Rudd, UK energy secretary, is set to downgrade climate change from the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s (DECC) highest priorities, but pledges to close all coal-fired plants by 2025. Rudd is set to prioritise the need for a competitive, secure, and consumer-led energy system over previous policies which have focused on climate change ahead of affordability.

Coal currently produces around a third of the UK’s electricity, however it is the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel. By phasing out coal-fired plants, Rudd will make a significant step towards reducing the UK’s electricity emissions, however many are arguing that she is not going far enough – as the intention is to bridge the production gap left by coal with gas. Whilst official rhetoric claims that gas is the most cost-effective method to reduce emissions from electricity production, government subsidy will be required to build new power stations.

This seems a questionable stance for the government to take, as these government subsidies could be utilised to aid the future of renewable energies, but instead their subsidies such as the Feed-in-Tariff and Renewables Obligation have been removed to make way for carbon-intensive industries.

Indeed, this news comes after the European Wind Energy Association’s (EWEA) report “Aiming High” found that wind power could exceed gas, coal and other energy forms by 2030 if European members follow their ambitious policy framework. By prioritising a new market design, reformed emissions trading schemes, streamlining national permitting procedures and creating rigorous accountability, the EWEA’s report found that European wind installations could reach 392GW. This is a considerable amount, bearing in mind that the current figure of 128.8GW of wind power installed can meet 10% of European power consumption in a normal wind year.

Whilst it must be admitted that moving away from coal power will be a step forward for the UK, they are taking a step backward by not fostering the emerging market for renewable energies, and instead preferring to subsidise nuclear and gas-powered facilities.

Click on the links to find out more from The Guardian and reNEWS.

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