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UK Shuts Coal Plants by 2025 But Slashes Support for Renewables

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The United Kingdom’s new “consumer-led, competition-focused” energy policy will see the country phase out all its coal plants by 2025, but replace their output by subsidizing nuclear generation and natural gas fracking.

Energy Secretary Amber Rudd “said she wanted policy to focus on making energy affordable and secure,” the Guardian reports, “adding that the balance had swung too far in favour of climate change policies at the expense of keeping energy affordable.”

Rudd “acknowledged that gas and nuclear power generation would in effect need a government subsidy for building power plants, but insisted they were the most secure energy sources for the future,” Mason writes. “Several analysts, campaigners, and the affected industries argue that slashing support for renewables is a backwards step when it comes to tackling climate change, growing green industry, and saving consumers money in the longer term.”

Climate Reality Project founder and ex-U.S. Vice President Al Gore called the announcement “the type of leadership that nations around the world must take in order to craft a successful agreement in Paris and solve the climate crisis,” noting that the UK “has become the first major economy to set a clear date to phase out coal.” But he said he was “confused” by elements of the UK plan that cut government support for clean energy technologies.

Dale Vince, founder of green energy retailer Ecotricity, had no such confusion, charging that the cutback was inconsistent with Rudd’s professed concern with cost.

“You have to pinch yourself when the government announces plans for another new subsidy for the fossil fuel industry—this time for gas-fired power stations—because they so recently said that renewable energy should stand on its own two feet,” he said.

“Supporting nuclear energy, fracking and now new gas-fired power stations—while shutting down onshore wind and solar on cost grounds—shows how dishonest or how utterly inconsistent the current government is,” Vince added. “It shows the Tories are not the party of business, but the party of business as usual.”

“As the government will highlight, decarbonizing our economy will involve a mix of technologies,” said WWF CEO David Nussbaum. “But the way to develop a climate-resilient economy and to be fair to bill payers is to pursue renewables ambitiously and to do so now.”

Nussbaum noted that “other countries are taking advantage of the fact that around half the global energy infrastructure being built today is renewable. And as renewables prices tumble the global market booms. Is Britain happy to be left behind?”

In June, critics said the UK’s decision to eliminate onshore wind subsidies a year early sent a “chilling signal” that raised “doubts that the new government is committed to cutting carbon emissions at the lowest cost.” In September, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne unveiled a £2-billion loan guarantee for the proposed Hinkley Point nuclear station in southwest England, just days after the government disallowed 1.3 GW of new wind generation on the Isle of Wight and in Wales.