UK can have 'brighter energy future'

Posted: 13 March 2006

New research by Friends of the Earth concludes that the UK can meet its electricity needs, reduce the need for imported natural gas, and tackle climate change without a new nuclear power programme.

The research, A Bright Green Energy Future, forms part of the organisation's submission to the UK Government's Energy Review which is investigating how the UK should meet its future energy needs. Government consultation on the Energy Review is due to conclude in April.

Friends of the Earth used data from industry and academic research to model how Britain's energy sector could develop over the next 25 years if the Government is serious about tackling climate change. The model, which was reviewed by academics and industry representatives, showed that:

  • The UK can reduce carbon dioxide emissions from generating electricity by between 48 and 71 per cent by 2020 without resorting to nuclear

  • Natural gas use for the power sector can be at least stabilised and in many cases reduced - meaning less of a reliance on imports.

Nuclear distraction

Friends of the Earth Director, Tony Juniper said:

"Our findings show that a green energy future would be good news for consumers, the economy and the environment. The truth is that we already have the technology to meet our electricity needs, reduce our dependency on imported gas and tackle climate change, and without resorting to a new nuclear programme. The latest science says we have ten years to get control of greenhouse gas emissions, new nuclear stations would take 15 years to come on line. The debate on nuclear power is a dangerous distraction from the real solutions."

In the UK electricity generation is responsible for around a third of carbon dioxide emissions. Many of the old nuclear power stations are nearing the end of their life while coal fired power stations are also facing decisions on their future. This offers an unprecedented opportunity to re-examine how the UK can meet its electricity needs while tackling climate change.

Cutting emissions

Friends of the Earth is calling on the Government to take action to combat carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector by:

  • Ensuring fossil fuels are used in the most efficient way possible through the promotion of combined heat and power schemes, decentralised energy systems and technologies for 'cleaner coal' making power stations 'capture ready' for when carbon capture and storage becomes available.

  • Doing more to promote renewable sources of electricity: the Government has set a target for 15 per cent of the UK's energy to be generated from renewable sources by 2015. However without more ambitious policies which promote a wider range of renewable electricity sources the Government is unlikely to achieve this target, or even begin to tap the enormous potential of renewable energy sources.

  • Reducing demand for electricity through new energy efficiency measures: there is the potential to reduce electricity consumption by around 10 per cent in the UK by 2020. The government must do far more to promote energy-efficiency policy for industry, the commercial and retail sector and households. If nothing is done, demand will continue to grow.

Friends of the Earth's climate campaign, 'The Big Ask,' is calling for the introduction of a new climate change law which would force the government to cut emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, by three per cent every year.

For more information go to thebigask.com