Energy secretary demands new gas stations
Rudd kills king coal but blows cold on wind power
Energy Secretary Amber Rudd today said Britain’s remaining coal-fired powers stations must be closed within the next ten years and replaced with gas power plants.
But her new focus on gas and nuclear drew criticism and concern from the renewables industry which claimed she gave no assurances as to the future of onshore wind which offers even cheaper and cleaner fuel.
Ms Rudd said the “dirtiest fossil fuel” should no longer be playing such an important role in Britain’s energy industry. It still generates 29% of the country’s electricity.
She questioned the undesirable dependency on coal-fired stations by pointing to the recent imbalance in supply which forced the National Grid to impose a voluntary shutdown.
“It cannot be satisfactory for an advanced economy like the UK to be relying on polluting, carbon-intensive 50-year-old coal-fired power stations. Let me be clear: this is not the future,” she said.
“One of the greatest and most cost-effective contributions we can make to emission reductions in electricity is by replacing coal-fired power stations with gas.”
Ms Rudd said that it is important to switch to gas-fired power stations and will also back more nuclear plants.
Ms Rudd’s decision brought a mixed response and some caution about the decision to focus on gas and nuclear. Niall Stuart, chief executive of Scottish Renewables, expressed concern that the decision may raise questions about the future of renewables.
He said: “It appears that the Secretary of State is bending over backwards to highlight the benefits of gas-fired and nuclear power, whilst overstating the challenges of increasing our renewable energy capacity.
“It is right that we get coal off the system but there is no mention of gas already being the UK’s main source of carbon emissions, the cost of nuclear power being significantly more expensive than onshore wind and solar, nor the challenges of managing large and inflexible nuclear power plants.
“With the promise of future support for gas, nuclear and offshore wind, it is totally unclear if there is any future for investment in onshore wind and solar, despite the fact that these are the cheapest forms of renewable power available.
“Both have the potential to make a significant contribution to future climate change targets while keeping bills down for consumers, but we will only secure deployment if they too can bid in for the long term contracts for clean power available to other technologies. “
Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing described it as a “missed opportunity” to close the energy gap.
He said: “The UK Government has recognised belatedly that its policies have weakened energy security and pushed up bills but today Amber Rudd has missed an opportunity to put in place new plans to address the gaps in UK energy policy, with few if any new actual incentives to drive energy generation.
“Ms Rudd fails to point out that higher transmission charges in Scotland mean effectively that no new gas power stations would be built here because the costs of using the grid are higher than England. This regime which discriminates against Scottish generators affects all generators, and means that Scotland cannot attract new thermal generation when in competition with alternative sites in England.
“Having failed to support Longannet, Peterhead or any new baseload in Scotland through the first capacity auction, the UK Government’s new ‘dash for gas’ is an admission of the seriousness of the UK’s energy crunch and a belated attempt to replace the UK’s ageing nuclear and coal fleet.
“With the UK energy strategy so reliant on gas-fired generation it is essential that the UK Government continues to support the construction of the world’s first full-scale gas carbon capture and storage project proposed for Peterhead Power station.
“There is further bad news for Scotland’s renewables industry with no support for the cheapest renewable technologies, such as onshore wind, and a further year’s delay to awarding contracts to new renewables capacity, which is particularly concerning for projects on Scottish islands, and Scottish offshore wind developments.
“We believe the oil & gas industry has a bright future and agree with the principle of maximising economic recovery. We’ll work closely with the Oil & Gas Authority in the best interests of the industry and will respond to the UK Government’s strategy consultation in due course.”