Green MP slams ‘expensive bias’ towards nuclear, gas and big energy players; calls for focus on smaller generators and community schemes 22.05.12
The Government will today publish its draft energy bill, with proposals for a reform of the electricity market aimed at unlocking the billions of pounds of investment needed in low carbon infrastructure over the next 10 years.
The Coalition has made clear its plans to build 16GW of new nuclear without tapping into public money, yet has been repeatedly forced to deny that the contracts proposed under the Electricity Market Reform (EMR) represent a subsidy.
Brighton Pavilion MP and leader of the Green party, Caroline Lucas, said:
"While I welcome efforts to address the UK’s dependence on fossil fuels, reduce our exposure to volatile energy prices and boost long term investment in renewables, this draft energy bill is deeply flawed and looks likely to benefit only the industry’s most powerful players.
"The Government has made a big noise about being ‘technology neutral’ and not putting all of its eggs in one energy basket, but the Electricity Market Reform proposals expose a clear bias towards nuclear and gas.
"We know that subsidising new nuclear would fly in face of the Coalition’s promise not to use taxpayer’s money for nuclear, yet no matter how much Ministers deny it, EMR will gift EDF and other potential nuclear operators with billions of pounds in subsidies over the lifetime of a power station."
Caroline Lucas continued:
"If we’re to avoid ending up with an insecure, dirty and expensive electricity system, we need a far more ambitious energy bill from this Government, which contains an absolute commitment to decarbonise electricity generation by 2030 - based on advice from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC).
"What has also been missing from the EMR proposals to date is a recognition of the vast, untapped potential of energy saving.
"The Energy Bill must introduce mechanisms - such as a feed in tariff for energy efficiency - to equalise support for demand reduction and energy saving as a matter of priority."
On gas, Lucas said: "Like nuclear, the obsession with gas is another expensive distraction from a decisive and rapid shift to an efficient and truly sustainable power system.
"Gas has a role to play as a bridging technology and in meeting peak demand, but the Energy Bill must categorically rule out a new dash for gas - both to keep energy costs for householders and businesses down, and to meet our carbon targets.
"A strong Emissions Performance Standard on gas fired power stations is essential, but what we have so far from the Government is utterly inadequate - with the CCC also warning that allowing unabated gas-fired generation from new plants through to 2045 risks diverting much needed investment away from genuinely low carbon technologies like wind and solar."
Lucas concluded: "Finally, an energy bill fit for the 21st century must have at its heart the Coalition’s own pledge to ‘support community ownership of renewable energy schemes’.
"Medium scale renewables are the squeezed middle of energy policy, largely ignored by the main parties - but their potential is illustrated by Germany, where renewable sources are now responsible for over 20% of Germany’s electricity, with communities generating around a quarter of this, compared to less than 1% in the UK."
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