Page last updated at 12:11 GMT, Monday, 13 July 2009 13:11 UK

Energy policy 'too wind focused'

Wind turbines near the Mersey
The CBI says the government targets wind power too much

The UK must invest more in nuclear and clean coal energy and put less emphasis on wind power if it wants a secure low-carbon future, business leaders say.

The CBI says government energy policy is "disjointed" and it is urging a "more balanced" energy mix.

The current approach means the UK might miss climate change targets, it added.

The government said putting in place a balanced mix of renewables, new nuclear and cleaner fossil fuels was at the heart of its energy policy.

It is due to set out its Energy White Paper on Wednesday.

But the CBI is calling for more action in its report "Decision Time".

"The government's disjointed approach is deterring the private sector investment needed to get our energy system up to scratch, bolster security and cut emissions," said CBI deputy director general John Cridland.

"While we have generous subsidies for wind power, we urgently need the national planning statements needed to build new nuclear plants.

"If we carry on like this we will end up putting too many of our energy eggs in one basket."

Energy war

The CBI's comments are based on computer modelling of current power sector investment by consultants McKinsey.

The CBI wants the government to:

• reduce the percentage of wind power expected by 2020 under the Renewables Strategy later this week, to encourage investment in other low-carbon energy sources.

Roger Harrabin
Roger Harrabin, BBC environment analyst

The document is timed to influence the government's Energy White Paper due this week. It is the latest salvo in the business war between nuclear, coal and wind.

A recent study by the consultants Poyry suggested that wind power could become so dominant in the UK that it leaves nuclear and CCS coal in competition with each other instead of holding the dominant position they have enjoyed since the 1950s.

The McKinsey study projects that under 'business as usual' by 2030, gas would provide 36% of the UK's energy, coal 1%, wind 24%, nuclear 20%, other renewables 12%, and clean coal 8%.

That would mean 64% of electricity would come from low-carbon technologies, behind the Climate Change Committee's 78% target. The investment cost is estimated at £125-£173bn.

• speed up the planning process for energy supplies

• produce rules and funding arrangements for for Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) demonstration plants

• accelerate investment in the grid

• improve energy efficiency in the electricity, heating and transport sectors, including offering financial sweeteners for consumers choosing more efficient products.

'No surprise'

A spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said: "We know that big investments need certainty, and we're on track with our promise to remove costly unnecessary barriers to new nuclear, such as the planning reforms already in train."

Andrew Warren, director of the Association for the Conservation of Energy and formerly a member of the CBI's energy policy committee, told the BBC's environment analyst Roger Harrabin that the increase in wind power was threatening to the big power generators who he said dominated the committee.

"This document is no surprise. EDF have been lobbying very hard for less obligations on renewables, saying it will distract from nuclear," he said.

"This is precisely what Patricia Hewitt [the former trade and industry secretary] warned would happen when she published the 'no-new-nukes' 2003 energy white paper."

'Champing at the bit'


How wind turbines are constructed

Greenpeace executive director John Sauven said that by calling for wind power's contribution to the UK's renewable energy targets to be reduced the CBI is actually doing its members a great disservice.

"Nuclear power is less effective than wind power at tackling climate change, while investment in renewables would create much needed British jobs in one of the few growth sectors in the global economy," he said.

"Here in the UK we have one of the best renewable energy resources anywhere in the world and a manufacturing sector champing at the bit to capture the lead in marine technologies like offshore wind and tidal power."

Meanwhile a DECC spokesman told Roger Harrabin the government was "fully behind" the 15% renewables target.

"We're not setting fixed sub-targets [for electricity, heat, transport], but our projections are about finding the most practicable and cost effective mix.

"Our analysis supports the approach we're taking. We don't believe it inhibits new nuclear - there are a myriad of other considerations to factor in."

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