Despite Brexit, British Energy Minister underlines commitment to carbon-reduction and new nuclear power stations

Amber Rudd. MP
Amber Rudd. MP

Amber Rudd, the British Energy Minister (and EU supporter) has vowed to continue with her pro-nuclear power policy – while reiterating UK government commitment to cutting carbon emissions.

Commenting on the vote in favour of British Independence from Brussels – she said: “To be clear, Britain will leave the EU.

“However, I want to underline our commitment to the issue over which I have primary responsibility; climate change.

“We made a clear commitment to acting on climate change. That will continue.

“Climate change has not been downgraded as a threat. It remains one of the most serious long-term risks to our economic and national security.

“Beyond that, we will continue to invest in clean energy. We have agreed to support up to 4GW of offshore wind and other technologies for deployment in the 2020s – providing the costs come down.

“At the same time we made tough decisions on support for renewable energy, reflecting our core belief that technologies should be able to stand on their own two feet.

“We remain committed to new nuclear power in the UK – to provide clean, secure energy.

“Government has prepared the ground for a fleet of new nuclear stations. Three consortia have proposals to develop 18GW of new power stations at six new sites across the UK.”

emissionsMeanwhile, the UK Govt has formally accepted recommendations by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) to set the fifth carbon budget to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 by 57% relative to 1990 levels

A CCC spokesman said: ‘Global commitment to tackling climate change has never been greater, nor has the speed of innovation in low-carbon technologies, which is resulting in reduced costs and new opportunities.

‘The Government’s acceptance of the fifth carbon budget places the UK in a position to take full advantage of an emerging world where low-carbon power, vehicles, buildings, industry and agriculture are in demand.

‘We welcome the clear signal this sends about UK ambition to continue reducing emissions into the 2030s across the economy, including from power, transport and buildings.

‘This is particularly important given the uncertainty following the recent vote to leave the EU.

However, the Government has rejected formal inclusion of emissions from international shipping within the fifth carbon budget.

The UK continues to reduce its emissions. Provisional figures for 2015 show that UK emissions are 38% below 1990 levels. Acceptance of the fifth carbon budget demonstrates the Government’s commitment to continuing along the cost-effective path towards the legal requirement to reduce emissions by at least 80% by 2050 compared to 1990 levels.

The CCC report also shows that UK emissions have fallen by an average of 4.5% per year in the last three years and are 38% below 1990 levels.

But this reduction has come almost exclusively from one sector –  electricity generation, where UK Government policies have driven an increase in renewable generation and a reduction in coal use.

Progress elsewhere has stalled: rates of installing insulation in homes have fallen by 60-90%, take-up of low-carbon heating remains below 2.5% of demand and, in the past year, emissions have been rising in the transport and agriculture sectors.

The Solar Trade Association welcomed the fifth Carbon Budget for setting another clear statement of long-term ambition, but said important short and medium-term questions remain.

Jonathan Selwyn, Chairman of the Solar Trade Association and Director of Solar Consulting Ltd, commented: “In our meeting this week with the Energy Minister, we urged her Department to take specific actions to address the significant slow-down in the industry following the recent changes to the solar support framework. We believe that a number of relatively minor changes could help stimulate the market.”

“As an industry we are on the path to a subsidy-free future, we hope by the early 2020s. To achieve this, we need a flourishing UK industry and a government that allows us to compete on a level playing field with other renewables as well as nuclear and gas.”

A spokesman for the UK Renewable Energy Association, commented:  “The fundamentals of energy have not changed post-referendum, we still need new generation that is cost effective, low carbon and secure. 

“This would be the worst time for the government to row back or U-turn on existing commitments, which would be toxic to inward investors. 

“The British Independence from EU-vote has been a shock to economy, yet we still have a looming energy gap. Renewables will be easier to finance than larger centralised projects, will give the UK energy security and price stability, as well as boost new technology jobs and inward investment.“

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