December 1 2015

New direction for UK energy policy says less coal, more gas

Amber Rudd has recently spoken about a major new strategy for the UK’s energy policy, revealing a strong set of priorities for the industry.

In an important speech given on 18 November, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change said that the UK will be the first country in the world to propose a phase out date for unabated coal power, and admitted that there has been "woeful underinvestment in critical energy infrastructure over the last decade".

In the speech, Amber Rudd outlined a new focus on cleaner energy, but not renewable energy. She announced that new gas-fired power stations need to be built in the next 10 years and that their aim is to “close coal by 2025 - and restrict its use from 2023”. Whilst stating this aim, she added that they will only go ahead if they are confident that it can be achieved within the timescales – there will be no shortfall in energy production.

As well as laying out this plan for relatively short-term energy production, she showed support for long-term nuclear plans.

“We need to build a new energy infrastructure, fit for the 21st century. Much of that is already in the pipeline – new gas, such as the plant at Carrington, and of course, a large increase in renewables over the next five years and in the longer-term, new nuclear. At the same time, we are building new interconnectors to make it easier to import cheaper electricity from Europe.

 “We are dealing with a legacy of under-investment and with Hinkley Point C planning to start generating in the mid-2020s that is already changing. It is imperative we do not make the mistakes of the past and just build one nuclear power station. There are plans for a new fleet of nuclear power stations, including at Wylfa and Moorside. This could provide up to 30% of the low carbon electricity which we’re likely to need through the 2030s and create 30,000 new jobs.”

Investment in off-shore wind tied up in energy production technology

Support for off-shore wind was announced, but only in the context of the industry showing technological progress first, without government funding.

“We should also support the growth of our world leading offshore wind industry. On current plans we expect to see 10GW of offshore wind installed by 2020. This is supporting a growing installation, development and blade manufacturing industry. Around 14,000 people are employed in the sector.

“But it is still too expensive. So our approach will be different - we will not support offshore wind at any cost. Further support will be strictly conditional on the cost reductions we have seen already accelerating. The technology needs to move quickly to cost-competitiveness. If that happens we could support up to 10GW of new offshore wind projects in the 2020s.

“We cannot support every technology. Our intervention has to be limited to where we can really make a difference – where the technology has the potential to scale up and to compete in a global market without subsidy.”

Read Amber Rudd’s speech in full here.  

Is this what we expected?


Crystal ball of energy

Earlier this month we contacted energy experts and asked them for their predictions for the energy industry in 2016. Largely this speech from the Energy Secretary contained a focus on all the areas we all expected it too, however the decision to set a target for closing coal-fired power stations is a bold step towards clean energy.

The 10-year goal for gas announced in the speech will undoubtedly mean there will be a need for the recruitment of skilled energy workers in the near future to meet this target. In the long term there will be a need for recruitment for nuclear, which Andrew Storer from the Nuclear AMRC feels positive about making use of transferable skills from Civil and Defence nuclear.

Although the speech clearly relays the message that off-shore wind will need to show advancement before any government support is given, there is the potential for it to grow following research and development.

Without government support renewable energy production will face a difficult time, and it is clear that they are directing renewables to take a step back and develop technology. Highly skilled engineers will be needed for this research stage, and following development there may be more demand for large-scale recruitment in renewable energy.

Image Credit: 010810661 ( Steven Depolo, Sean Creamer (


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