The much-anticipated Draft Energy Bill has avoided giving a firm date on the government’s target to banish coal and gas from the UK’s energy production system.
Previously, ministers had stated they wished to make energy clean by 2030, but the need to ‘retain flexibility’ has forced them to avoid making an written commitment, as yet.
Environmentalists had expected the Draft Energy Bill to have the decarbonising date dictate the rest of the bill, but Energy Secretary Ed Davey stressed the government’s priority is to ensure that power can be produced as cheaply as possible.
“We can meet our climate change goals by largely decarbonising the power sector during the 2030s.” said Davey, who believes that a carbon-free system could still be achieved by the end of the 2030’s, rather than the start.
This 10-year extension of the decarbonising window falls far short of the advice put forward by the official Climate Change Committee. The CCC’s recommendation was that the only feasible way to hit long-term CO2 targets is to virtually decarbonise electricity before the 2030s with electricity being produced at no more than 50gCo2/kW.
In line with today’s bill, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc)’s more gradual proposal could well result in something much less ambitious than complete decarbonisation by the end of the 2030s.
Joss Garman from Greenpeace said: “By failing to set a clear goal for carbon-free electricity by 2030, ministers are opening the door to a dangerous new dash for gas that will put up both bills and carbon emissions, and increase our dependence on imported fuel. This means families and business will be exposed to rocketing international gas prices.
“The fastest and cheapest way to bring down bills and carbon emissions is by ramping up energy efficiency but Ministers have totally failed to deliver on this.”
The ‘Dash for Gas’ also remains a concern for other environmentalists, who see the lack of a restraint on more traditional Gas power stations, could result in window opening where irreparable damage could be done to the environment as companies vie for relatively short-term gas sites before decarbonising at the end of the 2030’s.
Government officials say their concerns over gas-fired power stations are minimal, as any new sites built will have their emissions pumped into underground rocks rather than the atmosphere. However, concerns remain over this method, as it still remains relatively untested at this scale.