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Greg Clark: "Britain's energy policy is a horror show"

Greg_clark Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Greg Clark also responded to a ministerial statement on coal and carbon capture and storage yesterday.

Energy Secretary Ed Miliband announced that up to four new coal-fired power plants will be approved if they include technology to trap and store CO2 emissions underground. At first the technology would apply to just a quarter of the stations' output.

Herewith highlights from Mr Clark's speech:

"I thank the Secretary of State for early sight of his statement. I know from our exchanges that he is an avid student of my policy documents, and he knows how long the Conservatives have been trying to persuade him and his predecessors to give Britain a lead in carbon capture and storage. Sadly, that leadership has now passed to China, Germany and the USA. It is two years since the Government’s characteristic dithering led to the collapse of BP’s CCS project at Peterhead. That work is now being done in Abu Dhabi.

A year ago, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition set out the policies on CCS that Britain should adopt: to build a network of pipes and connections that would allow captured carbon dioxide to be transported from generating plants to areas of storage in the North sea; to equip at least three new coal plants with CCS technology, financed by Britain’s share of receipts from the EU emissions trading scheme; and to introduce an emissions performance standard that would limit emissions from any new plant to the equivalent of those from a modern gas-fuelled power station.

Our criteria remain those against which today’s announcement must be judged, but let us be clear why the statement was so urgently needed. After 12 years, Britain's energy policy is as much of a horror show as our public finances, and for the same reason: the Government did not fix the roof when the sun was shining. We have known for more than a decade that a third of our generating capacity is to be turned off during the current decade, and that there is no remotely adequate plan to replace it with a low-carbon alternative. We have known for many years that North sea oil and gas are in decline, but our gas storage capacity is grossly inadequate. During the cold snap last February, storage dropped to just four days’ worth. No other major European country generates less of its electricity from renewables, although we have some of the best wind, wave and tidal resources in Europe. If anyone thinks that the Government’s handling of the economy was an aberration, let them look at the mess of their energy policy. While we welcome the Secretary of State’s Damascene conversion to Conservative policy, it is from that appalling position that we now need to recover.


In yesterday’s Budget speech, the Chancellor vainly tried to distract attention from the wreck of Labour’s economic policy with a few meagre and meek environmental proposals. If the Secretary of State’s conversion on CCS is genuine, I welcome it, but I sincerely hope that today’s announcement does not turn out to be another example of Government greenwashing. The Secretary of State said that the Government must send a decisive signal, but much of the commitment that he has made is still subject to consultation. He has left it perilously late to secure our energy supplies for the decade ahead and to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, but it is absolutely vital that these decisions are finally acted on now, without delay."

Tom Greeves


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