British Government Looks to Balance Energy Sources

The British government will hold public consultations to see if citizens support a federal report that endorses the use of Renewable Energy sources.

LONDON, England 2002-02-18 [] The Performance & Innovation Unit released its Energy Review today, following an examination of the strategic energy issues for Great Britain within the context of global warming. Energy minister Brian Wilson, who chaired the advisory group for the review, emphasized that the government “will need to consider its recommendations carefully and consult the public about them.” “The report is not about renewable versus nuclear,” he said. “It is about balance and promoting innovation in new technologies. It stresses the potential for renewables and energy efficiency but also argues that the options of new investment in nuclear power and cleaner coal should be kept open.” The public consultations will lead to a white paper by fall. The report was commissioned by Prime Minister Tony Blair to set a strategy for energy policy through 2050 and to suggest practical measures for achieving the vision. The report says key policy principles should include promotion of competitive and liberalized markets, recognition of the importance of climate change in energy policy, promotion of technological innovation to create options to meet future demand, and the need to avoid locking prematurely into options that may prove costly in future. “Their report sets out very clearly the key trends and explains the choices that we face,” says Blair. “It makes clear how important it is to keep our options open, so that we can respond positively to changing circumstances.” “There is no doubt we need to move towards a low-carbon economy in response to our internationally agreed climate change goals,” said Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett. “Energy efficiency and renewables will certainly have a key role to play and will offer great opportunities for innovative businesses in the UK.” The report says that an immediate priority should be on energy efficiency and promoting Renewable Energy, but the option of new investments in coal and nuclear power need to be kept open. The target for electricity from renewable sources should be increased to 20 percent by 2020 and urgent action is needed to break down institutional barriers to investment in renewables and combined heat and power. The government should use economic instruments to bring home the cost of carbon emissions to all energy users and enable British firms to take part in international carbon trading, it adds. New targets are needed for energy and vehicle efficiency and the government should set a target of 20 percent for improved efficiency in the domestic sector by 2010, with a further 20 percent in the following decade. Government should also form a new cross-cutting Sustainable Energy Policy Unit to draw together all aspects of UK energy policy. “Climate change has become a central aspect of energy policy,” says Blair. “Achieving global emission reductions will need major technological innovation and I am convinced that the UK would benefit from being ahead of the game in moving to clean and low carbon technologies and in sharply improving our performance on energy efficiency.” The Performance & Innovation Unit reports directly to the Prime Minister and its mandate is to provide advice to government on strategic issues and to promote innovation in the development of policy. “I welcome the recognition given to the importance of environmental issues and the government will consider how our future energy policy framework can best address all three objectives of sustainable development – economic, environmental and social – as well as ensuring security of supply,” says Beckett. “It is important to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the energy system and recognize that sustainable energy is vital for the UK’s future sustainable development.” There is no immediate crisis in relation to the security of energy supplies or the move to imported gas, the report explains. “However, we need to keep issues of security of supply under constant review, recognizing that in the future this needs to be thought of in global terms.” A supplementary review by the Chief Scientific Adviser and a panel of 12 experts warns that British companies could lose the chance to cash in on commercial opportunities unless Renewable Energy is given a higher research and development profile. Continued support and development could lead to renewables being the most cost effective options for cutting carbon emissions, despite uncertainties over the costs of implementing the infrastructure, and the CSA review warns that Britain must spend more on research to bring it more in line with its nearest EU competitors.