Follow @RoryTingle1 Whipped Green: Return of King Coal reveals the lack of ambition behind UK energy policy

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Return of King Coal reveals the lack of ambition behind UK energy policy

Coal-fired power stations are set to stay in Britain until well into the 2020s, as the dismal failure to increase renewable electricity generation to necessary levels comes to light.

Green-minded consumers will now be required to provide hundreds of millions of pounds’ worth of subsidies to Britain’s coal power stations, which senior ministers say are necessary to avoid future electricity blackouts.

There could be no better evidence for the total lack of ambition behind the government’s policy towards renewables. The figures speak for themselves: Britain produced just 6.5% of its electricity from renewable sources in 2010, placing it third from bottom in the EU.

Percentage of electricity generated from renewables in EU countries:

Meanwhile, political will is driving a transition to renewable energy all over Europe. Denmark has a thriving green energy industry, with 28,000 workers employed in the production of wind turbines. This has radically transformed the Danish economy, and the country is on track to run entirely on renewables by 2050 .

Germany  is another success story, with 22% of electricity supply made up of green energy. Locally-owned energy cooperatives account for half of this total, while in the UK the corresponding figure is just ten percent.

Britain is lagging seriously behind its competitors, delaying the inevitable transition that must be made for our environment and economy.

Sensible policies have been replaced by a craze for fracking in senior government as the silver bullet to Britain’s energy problems. Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary, has even described shale gas as “God-given”.

At present, the government intends to pursue a course that threatens to leave the UK’s climate policy in tatters, without even considering the potential of fracking technology to reach geothermal deposits. This short-sightedness exemplifies the perverse reasoning that lies behind many energy policy decisions.

Britain’s unique position as a windswept, sea-encircled country on the northern fringes of Europe gives us some of the best and most accessible clean energy sources in the world.
The seas around the UK account for half of Europe’s entire wave and tidal generating capacity, yet we have not finished one major tidal barrage project.

Meanwhile, the government’s flagship green deal has not been completed by a single household.

Our politicians have got it seriously wrong on UK energy policy, and progress is constantly hindered by a vocal anti-renewables lobby whose influence is completely out of proportion to its size. 

As the rest of Europe is heading towards a green energy future, we are busy stoking our power stations with the dirtiest fuel of them all.

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