Britain urged to dump climate goals

LONDON (Reuters) - British climate and energy policy is incoherent and needs an overhaul, dumping carbon targets and building more coal and nuclear power stations to stop the lights going out, a pro-nuclear scientist said.

Big Ben is seen in central London July 16, 2008. REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico

A report entitled “A Pragmatic Energy Policy for the UK”, by Professor Ian Fells and Candida Whitmill, said renewables would not fill the impending energy gap so old nuclear and coal plants had to be kept going while new ones were built urgently.

“Current UK energy policy is not fit for purpose. Something has to be done about it if we are not going to run into serious problems around about the middle of the next decade,” Fells, an advocate of nuclear power, told reporters.

The government should guarantee a minimum electricity price to the power companies for the next 30 years to give them a secure investment outlook to finance the 4 billion pounds each nuclear power plant is likely to cost, he added.

“We are looking at something that looks like a slow motion train crash,” Fells said, accusing the government of vacillating over climate change and energy policy, starving the power industry of direction and reducing investment to a minimum.

The same held true across Europe where nuclear power was resurgent as governments woke up to the fact that they had delayed important baseload energy investment decisions for too long and placed too much reliance on intermittent renewables.


Environmentalists were outraged at the recommendations in the report, issued on Wednesday.

“Professor Fells has a long standing love affair with the technologies of the 20th century, but as time goes by his fetish for coal and nuclear power looks increasingly naive,” said Greenpeace chief scientist Doug Parr.

“All over the world jobs are being created in the renewable energy sector, but Britain has been left behind for too long by the negative, white flag approach to climate change that this report represents.”

The report, commissioned by industrialist Andrew Cook, who told the news conference he feared a complete societal breakdown if there were widespread power cuts, said energy security had now to be given absolute priority over climate change policies.

It was a view echoed by Whitmill: “Today’s credit crunch is a head cold compared with the double pneumonia this country will suffer if we don’t implement an energy policy urgently.”

Whitmill said one-third of Britain’s electricity generating capacity was set for shutdown within 12 years either due to old age or European Union carbon emissions restrictions that come into force in 2015.

The report said Britain, facing a yawning gulf between electricity demand and supply, had to breach the EU rules and keep the old coal plants going even though this went completely counter to climate policy of cutting carbon.

It said the nation was set to fall far short of its own target of getting 10 percent of its electricity from renewables such as wind and waves by 2010, with just six percent likely to be coming from those sources by then.

At the same time the EU target of getting 20 percent of energy from renewables by 2020 -- setting Britain a goal of getting about 40 percent of its electricity from renewables by then -- was utterly unattainable, it said.

Fells said the government must stop levying a climate tax on nuclear power and, in the knowledge coal would be used globally for centuries to come, should plough major funding into carbon capture and storage technology to bury emissions underground.

Editing by Anthony Barker