Energy Secretary Amber Rudd has said in a speech on Wednesday that the government will support growth in offshore wind farms “if, and only if, the Government’s conditions on cost reduction are met”. The speech marks a move away from renewable sources towards a focus on making energy “secure and cost-effective”.
The speech also set out plans for the UK to close all coal-fire plants by 2025 in favour of gas power plants. Gas does not produce as big a carbon footprint as coal but is still not as green as renewables which have faced cuts in subsidies since the Conservatives came to power. Coal plants currently account for 30% of the UK’s electricity supply.
Speaking to the BBC’s Today Programme, Rudd said: “Gas, and indeed nuclear in the future, are an essential part of delivering secure energy, over which we will take no risks.”
In the energy policy speech, Rudd argued: “Frankly, it cannot be satisfactory for an advanced economy like the UK to be relying on polluting 50-year-old coal power stations… In the next 10 years, it’s imperative that we get new gas-fired power stations built.”
Critics have suggested this was a step in the wrong direction when supporting renewables could produce cheaper and cleaner power in future. The Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas, tweeted that moving away from coal to gas was “like trying to go dry by switching from vodka to cider”.
But Rudd insisted “one of the greatest and cost-effective contributions we can make to emissions reduction is replacing coal-fired power stations with gas”.
“Action on climate change is linked to the action we’re taking now to reduce the deficit. It is about resilience now and in the future,” she added.
Greenpeace called the move away from coal, which will be phased out by 2025 after restrictions are introduced in 2023, a “massive victory”.
While we still need to push for renewable energy, this is a massive victory for everyone who’s campaigned to ditch dirty coal power [2/2]
– Greenpeace UK (@GreenpeaceUK) November 18, 2015
Rudd was criticised earlier in November after a leaked letter showed that the UK was not on track to meet EU targets on renewable energy. The UK is supposed to source 15% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020 but is only predicted to be at 11.5%.
On the COP21 conference starting on 30 November in Paris, Rudd said: “Climate change will not be solved by a group of over-tired politicians and negotiators in a Conference centre. It will take action by businesses, civil society, cities, regions and countries.
“Paris must deliver that and help unleash the levels of private investment needed. Our most important task is providing a compelling example to the rest of the world of how to cut carbon while controlling costs.”
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