By 2025 the remaining UK coal-fired power stations are to be shut, and by 2023 restricted (currently coal provides 28% of the UK’s electricity). The government’s new energy strategy is welcomed by some, however there is still criticism with regards to the closure of renewable subsidy schemes for wind and solar, as Ms Rudd believe that the renewables budget had been “way overspent”. The new direction for energy policy will be directed on new gas-fired power stations that will be built over the next 10 years. In the light of the recent negotiations between China and the UK in terms of new nuclear investments (Wylfa Wales and Moorside Cumbria), new nuclear power stations are vital to the government’s policy – they could provide up to a third of low carbon electricity throughout the UK in the next decade. The statistics from the Department of Energy and Climate Change clearly show that the UK remains reliant on fossil fuels for 60% of its electricity and a total of 85% of its total energy needs. 60% does not look promising if the UK would like to become a near-zero carbon economy as it has been planning.
The announcement comes at a time ahead of the UN Climate summit in Paris, sending a strong message to the participants that the world’s first industrialised nation will end its coal-powered industry. The international signal is strong as well as national with concerns raised about the costs consumers will face transforming the energy system. The government must work strongly in order to secure investors for the new gas plants as only one large plant is under construction today with the other only granted subsidy.
Some have gone to the lengths of comparing the plan to the version of Margaret Thatcher’s energy policy, claiming that not only will the replacement of new gas-fired power stations lock the UK into a high-carbon system but moreover it will make it almost impossible for the UK to meet its climate targets. It seems that energy security is securing its position over green energy at all costs.
Alexander Thomas, GradEl