Energy secretary Amber Rudd has revealed plans to close coal plants by 2025 and restrict the fuel’s use by 2023, while announcing a new energy strategy today (18 November).
Ms Rudd said the most cost-effective contribution the government can make to emission reductions in electricity is by replacing coal-fired power stations with gas – but added that the government will only proceed if it is confident that the shift can be achieved within these timescales.
ADE director Dr Tim Rotheray, however, argued that a focus on energy productivity – doing more with less and keeping energy infrastructure costs low – would save money for businesses and consumers and support a more competitive economy.
He said building more gas power plants alone is not sufficient to deliver the energy secretary’s consumer-led agenda.
As the UK currently imports around half of its gas needs, Ms Rudd said the government was encouraging investment in shale gas exploration to add new sources of home-grown supply.
Plans for a new fleet of nuclear power stations were also mentioned by Ms Rudd, who said this could provide up to 30% of the low-carbon electricity that the country is likely to need through the 2030s.
As the offshore wind industry has become “too expensive”, Ms Rudd said funding for this is now reliant on whether or not the sector can reduce its costs.
If the cost reductions are met, the government will make funding available for three auctions, with the first of these auctions to be held at the end of 2016.
Climate and Energy think tank E3G chief executive Nick Mabey welcomed plans for the UK to be the first major economy to set a date for phasing out unabated coal.
But he said the dash for gas and the failure to set out a coherent plan for boosting energy efficiency and clean energy would not restore investor confidence or position Britain to benefit from the accelerating global clean energy revolution.
“The best way to improve energy security and lower bills is to save energy, but the policies in this speech will slow the rate of efficiency investment in the UK,” Mr Mabey added.