Governments standing in the way of step change in energy

An overwhelming majority of senior executives from energy companies around the world say that government inaction and regulation are holding them back from acting on environmental concerns and security of supply.

A report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers published today reveals that 80 per cent of energy chiefs believe that political and regulatory factors are inhibiting their ability to meet the challenges faced by the industry.

Although ensuring security of supply remains the top priority of the industry, the survey reveals growing concern over environmental factors.

Nearly two thirds agreed that the industry should adopt a ten year focus on reducing environmental damage, developing new technologies, improving customer service relationships and finding new fuel sources.

A further 42 per cent said the sector is lagging behind in developing renewable technologies.

Half of all senior executives in the Americas and Europe said that they expected a growth in nuclear power, along with 44 per cent of all respondents.

However, the report concludes that coal, the most polluting of the fossil fuels, will make the biggest contribution to meeting growth in demand over the next five years.

Manfred Wiegand, global utilities leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers, said: “Our report highlights yet again the need for the industry to work with government and investors to make the infrastructure, technological, environmental and investment leaps that need to happen to arrive at a long term sustainable solution.”

David Porter, chief executive of the Association of Electricity Producers, said that uncertainty over Government policy was stopping UK electricity companies from investing in new power stations.

“This is particularly true in relation to CO2 emissions. Emissions allowances are allocated on a very short-term basis, compared with investment timescales. I think that the UK government understands the problem that this ‘mismatch’ creates, but managing greenhouse gas emissions is an international issue and agreements take time,” he said.

Germana Canzi, a climate change campaigner at Friends of the Earth, added: “We are pleased that business leaders recognise that their companies need to do a lot more to respond to environmental challenges.

“We also agree that policy-makers need to do far more to create the right frameworks for businesses to respond to these challenges, and believe climate change is the top priority.

“We are alarmed at the report’s statement that coal use is set to grow rapidly, because coal produces large amounts of CO2. Utilities should only be allowed to burn coal if they use the most efficient technologies currently available, if they also burn biomass with the coal, and if the plants are build with technologies to capture emissions and store them underground.”

Jess McCabe

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