Guardian Q&As on Energy policy/issues.
All sorts going on in Energy policy. A new draft energy bill is on the way which will mean 5 key developments:
- A stimulus to the nuclear power industry. Good news for them.
- A 'dash for gas'
- Bad news for renewable energy companies
- Bad news for environmentalists who want massive investment in renewables and bill payers
- Allegedly bad news for Cameron and the Coalition's so-called "greenest-government-ever" image
1. A stimulus to the nuclear power industry. Good news for them.
The government wants to extend the life of old nuclear power stations instead of decommissioning (which was the previous plan). Anti-nuclear campaigners are angry and LDs will clearly be unhappy that their long term anti-nuclear policy has been ignored.
2. A 'dash for gas'
The Chancellor hailed the 'dash for gas' in the 2012 budget, "Gas is cheap, has much less carbon than coal and will be the largest single source of our electricity in the coming years. And so the energy secretary will set out our new gas generation strategy in the autumn to secure investment. I also want to that ensure we extract the greatest possible amount of oil and gas from our reserves in the North Sea." Though the recent North Sea gas leak has raised concerns that it is not without environmental costs, and ultimatley gas is a finite resource. The opening up of 'fracking' has also caused concerns over tremors and worries over gas getting into the water supply (so say campaign group FRACK OFF - synopticity).
3. Bad news for renewable energy companies
Renewable companies are concerned that they will lose out, because the current system of subsidies will be replaced with a complex new system of support that could favour big companies over their smaller rivals. This new system – known as contracts for difference – would allow companies to sign long-term contracts to supply electricity. But the prices on such contracts could be higher or lower than the price of electricity in the wholesale market – the attraction to companies is supposed to be that the long-term nature of the contracts gives them the stability and certainty they need to invest. However, several renewables companies told the Guardian they thought the contracts would push smaller suppliers out of the market. Dale Vince, founder of Ecotricity, called for an exemption for small suppliers in order to encourage competition in the market. Many critics also see the move away from renewables as a missed opportunity to invest in the economy, create jobs and help get the economy growing again.
4. Bad news for environmentalists who want massive investment in renewables and bill payers
The bill is fatal to the hopes of building a low-carbon economy in the UK, according to green campaigners, and could leave consumers hooked on an increasingly expensive fossil fuel, with the soaring price rises that could entail. The UK's own supplies of natural gas in the North Sea are being rapidly depleted, making consumers heavily dependent on imports and the price volatility that brings. As any new gas-fired power stations would be expected to carry on operating – and producing CO2 – for at least 25 years, this would also make the UK's climate change targets in the 2020s increasingly hard to meet.
5. The greenest government ever?
- Osborne has made ungreen speeches
- Subsidies for solar cut
- Tory MPs rebelled over wind turbines
- Coalition split over nuclear between Tories (pro) and LDs (anti)
Excellent Ch4 Video below and article here