Responding to the Energy and Climate Change Committee’s report[i] on the draft Energy Bill, Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion said:
“I welcome the Committee’s report, especially their recommendations for a clear decarbonisation objective at the heart of the Energy Bill, for much greater priority to be given to the huge potential to reduce overall electricity demand, and for major revisions to ensure independent generators and community energy projects don’t lose out to the Big Six energy companies.
Ministers must now radically rework their proposals before the Bill comes to Parliament in the Autumn. The decarbonisation target at the heart of the Bill is crucial. At the very least, this needs to reflect the Committee on Climate Change’s recommendation that the power sector must be virtually carbon-free by 2030[ii]. There must also be a mechanism for requiring even faster decarbonisation if the science of avoiding dangerous climate change tells us that is required.
I agree with the Committee’s conclusion that the proposed weak Emissions Performance Standard (EPS) would be “at best pointless”. We need a strong EPS that categorically rules out a second dash for gas. Whilst gas can have a small role to play as a bridging technology and in meeting peak demand, Ministers must acknowledge that gas is a fossil fuel and burning fossil fuels is driving us towards runaway climate change. Gas prices have been the main cause of rising household energy bills[iii]. It would be nonsensical for this Bill to keep the UK hooked on dirty, expensive fossil fuels instead of making the most of the UK’s rich renewable energy resources.
The Bill must also rule out new nuclear power. Nuclear is a tried and tested technology that has demonstrably and repeatedly failed to provide either reliable or affordable energy. At a cost of £7 billion per power station[iv] it is eye-wateringly expensive. It would be wrong for Government to expect either taxpayers or bill payers to subsidise new nuclear power. Not only would this fly in the face of the promise made by Coalition Ministers not to subsidise nuclear, it would risk undermining investment in clean, safe, renewable energy.
Fuel poverty and consumer protection must be at the heart of the Bill. This means rejecting both nuclear power and reliance on gas generation because their costs are on a relentless upward trajectory. It also means embracing renewable energy technologies such as solar, offshore wind, onshore wind and marine and tidal technologies. The costs of renewables are coming down and will continue to do so[v]. And, above all, it means equalising support for demand reduction and energy saving as a matter of priority, for example through a feed in tariff for energy efficiency, and by using revenue from the EU Emissions Trading Scheme to fund a nationwide retrofit programme of energy efficiency in homes across the UK[vi].
A truly sustainable energy system based on renewable energy, energy saving and more community and cooperatively owned generation is technically within our grasp. What we need to see now is political leadership from David Cameron and Nick Clegg to prioritise the public interest over the corporate profits of the fossil fuel and nuclear industry, by rejecting the Treasury’s irresponsible short-termism and insisting on an Bill that puts the UK on a path to an energy system fit for the 21st century.”
[i] The cross-party Energy and Climate Change Select Committee of MPs have today (23rd July 2012) published the findings of their pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Energy Bill: http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/energy-and-climate-change-committee/news/energy-bill-report-published/
[ii] Committee on Climate Change has recommended that the electricity sector is set a target of cutting carbon emissions to 50g/KWh by 2030. See e.g. Fourth Carbon Budget report 2010 letter to Ed Davey on gas and Emissions Performance Standard
[iii] According to OFGEM and others. See for example: http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2011/10/green-policies-not-to-blame-for-rising-energy-bills,-says-ofgem
[iv] See for example http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/08/nuclear-britain-edf-idUSL5E8G8FQ620120508
[v] See for example Offshore Wind Task Force http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/news/pn12_074/pn12_074.aspx and REA press release http://www.r-e-a.net/news/rea-responds-to-policy-exchanges-misleading-report-on-the-costs-of-renewable-energy-policies
[vi] See http://www.energybillrevolution.org/