UK energy policy to cut coal, boost gas

The UK, in a major policy shift, will boost the use of natural gas and nuclear energy, end the use of coal within 10 years, and limit subsidization of renewable energy.

Speaking Nov. 18 at the Institution of Civil Engineers in London, Amber Rudd, secretary of state for energy and climate change, declared, “Energy security has to be the number-one priority.”

UK energy policy in recent years has centered on combating climate change, relying on heavy subsidies for renewable energy that have made UK electricity prices among the highest in Europe.

In her speech, Rudd asked a question indicating a policy turn toward a balance of interests: “How do we achieve an energy system that is secure, affordable, and clean?”

The energy secretary said the government will propose to begin restricting coal use for power generation in 2023 and to close all coal-fired power stations by 2025.

“One of the greatest and most cost-effective contributions we can make to emission reductions in electricity is by replacing coal-fired power stations with gas,” she said. The coal phaseout will proceed only “if we’re confident that the shift to new gas can be achieved within these timescales.”

She said nuclear energy and gas both are “central to our energy secure future.”

But nuclear power has to be affordable, she added, declaring, “Green energy must be cheap energy.”

Rudd cited UK progress toward development of an offshore wind industry but said: “It is still too expensive. So our approach will be different. We will not support offshore wind at any cost. Further support will be strictly conditional on the cost reductions we have seen already accelerating.”

The government already has cut subsidies for solar energy.

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