Failure to Act on Duties of Minister and Regulator Will Handicap Energy Policy

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), August 2, 2006 | Go to article overview

Failure to Act on Duties of Minister and Regulator Will Handicap Energy Policy


Byline: By SION BARRY Western Mail

The Government's latest Energy Review has widespread implications, most notably bringing an end to the moratorium on new nuclear build and possibly paving the way for a Severn tidal barrage. But the changes may not go far enough, argues Paul Brennan, an energy lawyer with Morgan Cole solicitors

WHEN the Government published its Energy Review last month, it was the second such exercise in just four years. The previous review led to increased support for renewable energy but ducked the issue of nuclear generation.

Even before the latest review was under way, it was widely held that its true purpose was to prepare the public for the Government's conclusion that new nuclear stations and, at the very least, replacement of existing nuclear plant will need to be part of the mix if the UK is to have even a modest degree of success in addressing fundamental concerns over greenhouse gas emissions and security of supply.

So the review's conclusion that new, privately owned and operated nuclear power stations would make 'a significant contribution' to meeting the Government's energy policy goals comes as no surprise.

Yet having correctly identified climate change and security of supply as being, alongside price, the fundamental considerations in the formation of energy policy, the review falls short in failing to recommend changes to the statutory duties of the Secretary of State and Ofgem, the energy market regulator, to reflect this fact.

This failure will continue to handicap the efforts of Government, regulator and industry to address the very considerable challenges ahead.

The oversight will be particularly damaging if the review's faith in the effectiveness and dependability of international emissions trading proves to be misplaced.

New carbon neutral generation will only be built if it is commercially viable - a question intimately related to the costs of competing fossil fuels, not least those associated with carbon emissions.

For those willing to take the plunge, the review does address a couple of the main obstacles to new nuclear build. Crucially, it indicates that ultimate responsibility for delivering and paying for a long term nuclear waste management solution falls to the public sector, and that the Government's solutions for legacy waste will also have to cater for waste from new plant. …

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Failure to Act on Duties of Minister and Regulator Will Handicap Energy Policy
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