November 23, 2015

U.K. Government Expected to Shift Policy on Support for Renewable Energy

Speech by Amber Rudd will set out new energy policy with central role for nuclear and natural gas

The U.K. government will make keeping the lights on the top priority with natural gas and nuclear power playing a central role in that goal, Energy and Climate Change Secretary Amber Rudd is expected to say in a major speech later Wednesday setting out a new energy policy for the country.

The move appears to mark an end to previous governments’ policy of supporting renewable energy, such as wind power and solar, with generous subsidies in efforts to meet 2020 climate change target to cut emissions by increasing the amount of renewable energy in the power sector.

When he came to power in the previous coalition government, Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to create the “greenest government ever.” But since winning a majority in general elections earlier this year, Mr. Cameron’s government has pulled back on once generous subsidies for wind and solar energy, drawing criticism from environmentalists and investors in the technology. His government has also thrown its weight behind efforts to explore for shale gas.

Mrs. Rudd is expected to say that replacing coal-fired power stations with gas-fired plants will be one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases in the electricity sector.

“Gas is central to our energy secure future. In the next 10 years, it’s imperative that we get new gas-fired power stations built,” Mrs. Rudd will say in the speech.

Her comments come just weeks ahead of a major United Nations climate conference in Paris in December where participants hope to nail down an international agreement to cut emissions.

The U.K. is the world’s sixth largest producer of wind power, according to data from the Global Wind Energy Council. Last year, the U.K. government paid over £800 million in subsidies to onshore wind farms which generated around 5% of the country’s electricity.

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