While a move away from fossil fuels is nothing new, the closure of the coal fired stations in 10 years’ time without a clear and practical alternative seems a little ambitious. Certainly coal is polluting but then so are most other kinds of fuel and in her speech yesterday, Amber Rudd, Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change, did little more than indicate a vague direction of possible travel rather than the crisp, incisive and energy efficiency led statement that would have been more helpful as part of the UK drive towards 2050 obligations.
Only if gas-fuelled power can fill the void created by closing coal-powered stations would coal plants be shut, she said. But BSRIA is concerned 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.
Currently, coal provides about a quarter of the UK's electricity, Ms Rudd said that it is imperative we do not repeat the mistakes of the past and just build one nuclear power station. Gas is central to our energy-secure future, so is nuclear. In the next 10 years, it’s imperative that we get new gas-fired power stations built as well as investing in the web of supply that stretches across Europe. Additionally BSRIA would argue that investment in nuclear must not be at the expense of renewables.
Ms Rudd said: “We want a consumer-led, competition focussed energy system that has energy security at the heart of it and delivers for families and business.” BSRIA agrees that this objective is laudable but saw little elsewhere in her speech that identified how this was to be delivered. She went on to say: “Energy security has been best served by government staying out of the way and allowing markets to find an answer.” However it seems questionable that such an approach will deliver in this complex and difficult sector.
Julia Evans, Chief Executive, BSRIA, 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.
Ms Rudd said regarding a global deal: “This much I know, climate change will not be solved by a group of over-tired politicians and negotiators in a conference centre.” Clearly, government is not leading but waiting for industry to take the lead.
The UK will get left behind other countries such as in Scandinavia if it doesn’t continue to support renewable technology which is low carbon, low cost and highly popular with the British public.”
Ms Rudd's speech comes ahead of the UN summit on climate change in Paris in December, aimed at securing a new global climate change agreement.