United Kingdom

United Kingdom

Liberal Democrats take top UK energy job but nuclear plans remain

UK: The UK's new coalition government has appointed the Liberal Democrat's Chris Huhne as energy and climate minister. The party has a radical green agenda, which includes ensuring 100% of UK electricity is sourced from renewable sources by 2050.

UK secretary for state for energy and climate change Chris Huhne
UK secretary for state for energy and climate change Chris Huhne

In the run-up to the election, the Liberals and the Conservatives both broadly agreed the UK needed to develop renewable energy sources.

The two parties have managed to find a compromise over Conservative plans to build nuclear power stations. Under the agreement the government will build nuclear power stations.

New nuclear power stations will be built. The Liberals will be allowed to speak out against this when legislation comes before parliament but will abstain when it comes to a vote.

The appointment of Huhne, who was previously home affairs spokesman and who took one of five cabinet posts for the Liberals, points towards his party taking a lead on UK energy policy.

Other elements of the coalition agreement affecting UK renewable energy:

  • The establishment of a smart grid and the roll-out of smart meters.
  • The full establishment of feed-in tariff systems in electricity - as well as the maintenance of banded ROCs.
  • The creation of a green investment bank.
  • Measures to encourage marine energy. The establishment of an emissions performance standard that will prevent coal-fired power stations being built unless they are equipped with sufficient CCS to meet the emissions performance standard.
  • We are agreed that we would seek to increase the target for energy from renewable sources, subject to the advice of the Climate Change Committee.

Key points on energy policy from the Liberal Democrat 2010 manifesto:

  • 40% of UK energy to come from clean sources by 2020 with the aim to increase this figure to 100% by 2050. Three-quarters of this will come from offshore and marine sources.
  • Invest £400m in redeveloping ports in the north of England and Scotland to build offshore wind farms, in a similar way to the German port of Bremerhaven.
  • Create a renewable ‘route map' covering grid access and developing new incentives for clean energy development.
  • Transform electricity networks to better incorporate renewable energy.
  • Block the development of coal powered stations unless accompanied by the highest quality carbon capture.






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