UK consultation begins

23 January 2006

A three-month consultation to assess public views on both the supply and demand side options for energy has been launched in the UK. The publication of the consultation document marks the official start of the government’s energy review, which prime minister Tony Blair has said will look specifically at the question of whether to “facilitate” new nuclear build.

The document explains that the context of the discussion is centered on three points:

  • Increased evidence of the adverse impact of climate change and the need to cut emissions.
  • That the UK will become a net importer of oil and gas sooner than expected. At present, the UK imports around 7% of its gas, by 2020 that figure could be 90%.
  • That energy prices have risen sharply over recent months: “For some big industrial consumers especially, high and volatile gas prices have caused real difficulties,” the document states.
Alan Johnson, secretary of state for trade and industry, said at the launch of the consultation phase: "There is not a 'do nothing' option."

NEI readers will also know that by 2023, only one UK nuclear power unit (Sizewell B) will still be in operation. Before then, 22 reactors accounting for 10,664MWe will be shutdown in addition to about 7000MWe of coal generation. Between the two sectors, about 30% of UK electricity generation will need to be replaced.

The results of the consultation will be factored into the full energy review, headed by energy minister Malcolm Wicks and delivered to Tony Blair’s government in July this year. The government will then consider the review’s recommendations and may produce a white paper detailing any new policy.

Despite assurances in the consultation that the review “does not mean pulling back from the key priorities we set out in the [2003] white paper, notably on encouraging renewable energy and energy efficiency,” Green campaign groups have mobilised their forces to oppose discussion of the use of atomic energy. A notable Greenpeace contribution to the national debate was a short film, Friday the 13th, which depicts a 911-style attack on Sizewell A.

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