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Last Updated:  Sunday, 23 February, 2003, 12:27 GMT
Britain's new energy policies under fire
Wind farm
The energy sector has been slow to take up renewables
Leaked drafts of the British government's energy policy, which will be published on Monday, indicate it has gone soft on green and nuclear issues.

The Energy White Paper will detail Labour's policies on future energy provision and deal with issues like Britain becoming a net importer of gas and oil, renewable energy and climate change.

The Financial Times on Saturday quoted a draft that pledged 10% of Britain's electricity would be generated from renewable sources by 2010, up from the present 3%.

But the paper said renewable targets for 2020 had been downgraded to goals to as previously hinted by Energy Minister Brian Wilson.

The energy sector has been slow take up renewable energy production technology like off-shore wind farms, putting Britain behind many EU countries.

Previously the target of electricity produced by renewables had been expected to be 20% by 2020.

Strategic dependence

The leaked drafts also reportedly said Britain would become a net importer of gas within three years and of oil by 2010.

The reliance on overseas sources would leave Britain economically vulnerable to price and supply fluctuations, which could have political roots.

The widely-leaked white paper was derided as "incompetent, irrelevant and frankly dangerous" by Sir Bernard Ingham, secretary of the Supporters of Nuclear Energy group and former Number 10 Downing Street press secretary under Margaret Thatcher.

"At a time when greenhouse emissions are rising in Britain, it proposes to continue to allow the nuclear industry, which emits no greenhouse gases, to run down," he said.

Nuclear delays

Last month, Energy Minister Brian Wilson confirmed the white paper would avoid a decision on the future of the loss-making nuclear power industry.

Britain's nuclear industry, which produces about a quarter of electricity needs, has become uneconomic after the market was liberalised in 1998 which pushed prices down by about 40%.

The government has already bailed-out British Energy with hundreds of millions of pounds in loans.

The white paper was to have been published early in the new year.



The BBC's Hywel Jones
"The government will be trying to strike a balance"

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