The government’s own climate change advisors have hit out at support levels shown by ministers for the continued use of gas in the UK’s future energy mix.
With a £500m tax break being handed to offshore gas drilling projects in the North Sea and the exploration of shale gas high on the agenda, The Committee on Climate Change has moved to warn the government that it risks missing legally binding carbon reduction targets.
In a letter sent to energy secretary Ed Davey last week, the committee wrote to ‘express great concern’ over the government’s current position. It adds that extensive use of unabated gas-fired capacity in 2030 and beyond would be ‘incompatible with meeting legislated carbon budgets’ and that it ‘weakens the signal’ sent to potential investors in renewable technology.
The letter calls on Davey to mitigate the impact of continued fossil fuel reliance in energy generation by setting a clear carbon objective for the EMR (Electricity Market Reform) bill as it continues its passage through parliament.
The Renewable Energy Association welcomed the letter with chief executive Gaynor Hartnell adding: “This important letter from the CCC clearly explains one of the reasons confidence is flagging across the renewable power sector. Gas can be a friend of renewables, if used strategically to support the transition to a low-carbon future. That is the approach we would like to see in DECC’s forthcoming gas strategy.
“Government needs to provide consistent political support and a stable investment climate if it is to achieve its decarbonisation objectives. It is very encouraging that the new chair of the CCC Lord Deben has moved so quickly to articulate this important message.”
In response to suggestions that the government is prioritising the use of gas over renewables, Ed Davey said: “We are currently considering a 2030 electricity decarbonisation target but our existing plans are consistent with significant decarbonisation of the power sector.
“We are absolutely committed to meeting our statutory carbon budgets. That is why we are pushing through ambitious reforms to overhaul existing old fossil fuel power plants, replacing them with new low-carbon forms of power generation.
“A fifth of our power stations are closing over the next decade and we need to build a diverse mix of all the technologies to keep the lights on and lower our emissions.
“We have always said this will include gas fired plant, which is quick to build and flexible. After 2030 we expect that gas will only be used as back up, or fitted with Carbon Capture and Storage technology. But, alongside up-scaling of renewables, nuclear new build, and eventually with carbon capture and storage, gas has an important role to play in the transition to a low carbon grid.”