Does avoiding the ‘do-nothing scenario’ mean going nuclear?

Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks warned of the dangers of doing nothing on energy policy, this week, in a speech that critics saw as another step towards building the next generation of nuclear power stations.

Speaking about the Energy Review at the Social Market Foundation, Mr Wicks said that the UK was becoming increasingly reliant on gas imports, so the need to ensure secure, clean, affordable energy supplies for the long term, has never been more critical.

“Although our current energy mix is diverse, with 19% from nuclear, 33% from coal, 40% gas and 4% and rising from renewables, changes at home and beyond our borders require that we rethink our energy future,” he said.

“The changes since 2003 mean now is the time to review UK energy policy.”

He posed several key questions that the review would be addressing:

  • how can we speed up progress in reducing carbon emissions, particularly through the way we generate electricity?

  • how can we develop more effective policy tools for securing energy efficiency?

  • how can we ensure we achieve reasonable reliability and security of energy supplies?

  • and finally, how do we achieve all of these things in a way that is affordable and doesn’t damage our competitiveness, public finances and prosperity?

    However, Mr Wicks made no mention of finding ways to actually reduce energy demand from any key sectors.

    He added that he wanted the review to have a grown up, informed debate around difficult issues, saying: “There will be challenging decisions to be taken at the end of this process, but it is better to take them soon – and in good time – than to be judged severely by future generations who might otherwise ask why we did not act when we had the opportunity to do so.”

    Critics, however, have taken the “challenging decisions” to mean that the review answers are a foregone conclusion in favour of nuclear power.

    Liberal Democrat Shadow Environment Secretary Norman Baker MP said: “The Minister may have given a speech repeating the Government line that any decision on nuclear will be made pending the conclusions of the Energy Review. However, the suspicion remains that this will function purely as a ‘dodgy dossier’ for a decision that has already been taken.”

    “Nuclear power is not the answer to our energy needs. The Government must rule this out now, rather than continue to pour millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money down the drain. We must commit to a cleaner, greener future where our energy requirements are met by an affordable and achievable policy of energy efficiency improvements and investment in a broad range of renewable technologies.”

    David Hopkins

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