UK Government to Review Current and Future Energy Policy

The United Kingdom’s Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks has been tapped by Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Alan Johnson, to lead a major new review of the country’s energy policy and to bring forward policy proposals next year. Major issues will include a continuation of the UK’s ambitious renewable energy goals and the possible use of nuclear energy to help bolster carbon-free energy supplies.

The terms of the review are broad in scope including aspects of both energy supply and demand and will focus on policy measures to help the UK deliver on its objectives beyond 2010. The review will aim to ensure the UK is on track to meet the goals of the 2003 Energy White Paper in the medium and long term. “The Energy Review is taking place against a background of strengthening evidence on the nature and extent of climate change and increasing concerns about the future security of UK energy supplies,” Wicks said. “This is the right moment to assess where we are in relation to achieving the goals set out in the 2003 Energy White Paper. “The Review will explore all the options open to us taking into account the important international context,” Wicks said. “There will inevitably be some difficult decisions and trade offs to be made in arriving at the right package of policy proposals. It is crucial that we stimulate a wide-ranging and informed debate and engage the public, business and industry throughout the process as well as academic, private sector, scientific, NGO and other experts.” According to the UK’s Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the review will consider all options including the role of current generating technologies (e.g., renewables, coal, gas and nuclear power) and new and emerging technologies (e.g., carbon capture and storage). The Review will also consider transport and the role of energy efficiency. Not everyone is pleased that all options, particularly nuclear energy, will be among the options considered for future use. The Government’s Energy Review must pave the way for clean, safe alternatives to meet Britain’s energy needs, rather than rubber stamp a new generation of nuclear power stations, said the environmental organization Friends of the Earth in response to the news. “The UK could be a world leader in developing a low-carbon, nuclear-free economy,” said Friends of the Earth’s director Tony Juniper. “The Energy Review must deliver a sustainable energy plan for the future. Investing in energy efficiency, renewable energy and cleaner use of fossil fuels could achieve this. Will the Government seize the opportunity, or has it already fallen for the latest nuclear con?” The wind power industry also chimed in with the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) saying that it is also essential that the Review sets Britain on course to use the country’s huge strategic natural renewable resources, such as wind, wave and tidal stream. “The Energy White Paper of 2003 set an ‘aspiration’ that 20 percent of our electricity needs should come from renewables in 2020 with a target of 10 percent by 2010,” said Marcus Rand, BWEA Chief Executive. “Now is the time to turn that 2020 aspiration into a firm target, and ensure that the mechanisms are put in place to achieve it.” The Review will be taken forward by a cross-departmental team based in the DTI, with officials drawn from key relevant departments and the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit. The devolved administrations and territorial departments are already involved and will continue to be involved throughout the course of the Review. The Review team will draw on expert support and analysis both within and outside government. A formal consultation phase will start around the turn of the year. The consultation will be launched with a statement of current evidence on the White Paper goals and the government’s plans for engagement with the public and stakeholders.
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