The Energy Omnishambles

Posted by petespeller — 22 May 2012 at 6:02pm - Comments
All rights reserved. Credit: Greenpeace
A loop hole in the Energy Bill could see the return of coal-fired power stations

The government's flagship attempt to reform where our electricity comes from prioritises expensive gas and nuclear over renewable energy, doesn’t even mention money saving energy efficiency and is so complicated that even the energy utilities don't understand it.
The Energy Bill, published in draft form by the government yesterday, is supposed to do three things:

  • Bring down energy bills
  • Cut carbon emissions from electricity generation
  • Secure UK power supplies

However, the Bill fails on all fronts, what Malcolm Tucker from The Thick of It would call – amidst a stream of expletives no doubt- an "omnishambles".

The government’s reforms are skewed to fund up to eight new nuclear power stations because nuclear costs are soaring and new reactors are unprofitable for private companies. To do this they’ve designed a complex set of rules intended to dodge claims that they are actually subsidising nuclear power, because all main parties have agreed that there will be no new public subsidy for nuclear power. This is set to pile huge costs onto already struggling bill payers and critically undermine support for renewable energy.
The independent Committee on Climate Change has advised that the UK electricity sector must be almost carbon-free by 2030 if the UK is to meet the carbon emission reductions set out in the Climate Change Act. It’s nowhere to be seen in the bill.
What does appear though is a limit on emissions from power stations that will stop the construction of coal plants without technologies that keep the carbon they generate out of the atmosphere. Even this, though, is not immune from a whiff of the shambles that taints this entire bill.  

The Government has so far refused to rule out the possibility that new coal plants built to test the experiment of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) will then need to abide by the limit on emissions if the CCS experiment fails. In other words, the limit on emissions proposed in the bill might bring back the spectre of coal plants like Kingsnorth polluting our skies and undermining our reputation as a progressive country on climate change.

To compound this – with a little prod from the Treasury – the Department for Energy and Climate Change is also giving an assurance to gas plants that they can pollute to their hearts content up to 2045, at just the point when it should be sending a signal to industry that the era of unconstrained emissions from all fossil fuels is coming to an end. Shambles barely covers it.

With recent household energy bill hikes overwhelmingly caused by expensive gas imports, the Bill would lead to a future of unstable, expensive energy. One measure that could actually bring bills down, energy efficiency, doesn't even get a look in.
The good news is that this is just a draft Bill and can be changed. We will be working with Friends of the Earth, WWF, RSPB and others to drag it into the 21st century. We’re going to need your help. Watch this space.

Follow Greenpeace UK