Lib Dem policy has been towards scrapping nuclear power, however Conservative policy has been to increase it – putting the coalition at loggerheads.

And leaving business groups like the CBI fearing a lack of clarity will prevent investment in the UK’s energy infrastructure.

Launching a new report today (August 9) called No time to lose: Deciding Britain’s energy future, the CBI claim that without clarity on Government policy, £150bn of private sector investment in low-carbon infrastructure would fail to materialise.

This investment is essential for the UK to achieve a secure, sustainable and cost-effective energy mix that includes renewable sources, nuclear power and fossil fuels.

CBI deputy director general, John Cridland, said: “The Government’s first few months in office have been rightly dominated by sorting out the fiscal deficit, but it must not let the timetable for energy and planning reform slip any further.

“Energy companies are unable to get the ball rolling on new infrastructure projects when it is unclear how the future planning regime will work.

“Uncertainty on plans for electricity market reform, slow progress on clean coal and nuclear power, as well as the cost of renewable energy are adding to the mood of caution among investors. We need investment from companies, not delays from government.”

But, speaking on Radio 4’s the Today Programme, Mr Huhne said: “We are on course to make sure that the first new nuclear power station opens on time in 2018.

“There are a number of sites that have been identified around the country and those are generally on sites where we have previously had, for example, nuclear power stations and where the local people are very keen that there should be new nuclear build.

“What we have to do – we have eight years now before I hope that the first one will come making a contribution to the grid – and we have to get through all of the prior arrangements, like, for example, the national planning statements, like making sure that investors have got their application in and formally approved.”

Luke Walsh

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