Industry questions Rudd's energy policy speech
A speech this week by energy secretary Amber Rudd on the UK’s future energy policy, outlining the UK’s plans ahead of the UN summit on climate change in Paris next week, has drawn criticism from industry representatives.
Rudd said that the UK will close all coal-fired power plants by 2025, the first major country to do so, but will fill the capacity gap largely with new gas and nuclear plants rather than cleaner alternatives.
According to The Guardian, coal provides about 30% of the UK’s electricity but it is the most carbon intensive of fossil fuels and environmentalists have long been pushing for DECC to set a date for phasing it out.
Burning gas emits about half as much carbon as coal and is considered by some to be a “bridging” fuel, as countries work towards a zero-carbon future.
But the Building Services Research and Information Association (BSRIA) said that the “closure of the coal fired stations in 10 years’ time without a clear and practical alternative seems a little ambitious”.
"The announcement of the new policy focuses solely on energy supply, and makes no reference to the opportunity to drive energy efficiency and so reduce the need for new generating capacity."
Hywel Davies, CIBSE
In a statement, it said: “BSRIA is concerned [that] little is being done to promote renewables with no real commitment given. What we need is the kind of message that will give investors confidence that the UK has a purposeful and enduring plan that will encourage business investment. Additionally, BSRIA would argue that investment in nuclear must not be at the expense of renewables.”
In addition, Julia Evans, chief executive of BSRIA, pointed to recent government policy cutting subsidies to renewable forms of energy. She said: “The government has ‘abandoned’ the cheapest forms of power – onshore wind and solar energy. We need some gas fired stations, however, these need to be partnered with investment in renewables and nuclear.
“BSRIA is anxious about the shrinking investment in renewables coupled with imprecise policy statements that will weaken this part of the market. The government keeps changing tack on its energy policy – this is discouraging investment. Investors will only invest if they have confidence; Government needs to lead on this.
Environmentalists say nuclear and gas power are not the cheapest form of energy in the long run. Not only are renewable energies cleaner, but because the sun and the wind are free – then ultimately these technologies offer better value for money. Of course the UK cannot rely on renewables alone as yet so improvements in energy storage technologies are needed. Renewable energy should never be dismissed because of current concerns about reliability or continuity of supply.”
Meanwhile, the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) pointed out that the plans to reduce carbon emissions through greener generation made little mention of reducing the demand for power through greater energy efficiency.
Hywel Davies, technical director of CIBSE, said: “The announcement of the new policy focuses solely on energy supply, and makes no reference to the opportunity to drive energy efficiency and so reduce the need for new generating capacity.
“Using less energy also puts consumers first, reduces the burden on bill-payers and ensures enough electricity generation to power the nation, so why is this not included in the statement?”