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Thursday, 14 February, 2002, 22:34 GMT
Energy review urges greener focus
Wind turbines
Wind energy could play a key role
Energy efficient homes and increased use of renewable fuels should play a key part in the UK's energy policy, says a new report.

But the review of the nation's future energy prospects leaves open the controversial question of nuclear fuels, raising concerns among environmental groups.

The report by the Cabinet Office Performance and Innovation Unit (PIU) says greater efficiency is the cheapest way of keeping security of supply and meeting climate change targets.

Renewable energy's time has come

Friends of the Earth
Some environmental groups believe the proposals could revolutionise the way we use energy.

The UK's existing target is for 10% of electricity to come from renewable sources by 2010.

The report recommends that renewables should be supplying 20% of the UK's electricity by 2020 - which could add about 5-6% to domestic electricity bills.

Following the release of the review, Prime Minister Tony Blair vowed that Britain would have "secure, competitive and affordable energy".

White paper

In a Commons written reply, Mr Blair said: "While this report is not a statement of government policy, it raises a broad range of issues that are important to the future evolution of energy policy.

"The government intends to set in process a period of public consultation, leading to an Energy White Paper in the autumn."

The BBC's Tim Hirsch says there has been a mixed response from environmental campaigners.

Anti-nuclear campaigns are angry that the review is non-committal over the future of the nuclear industry and the wind power industry says the targets are too modest, he said.

Campaigners for energy savings, on the other hand, are pleased that review recommends a 40% improvement in the efficiency of Britain's homes.

Greener homes

The Energy Saving Trust's Sarah Eppel says better energy efficiency is possible.

"Using things that are on the market right now and getting everyone to do something about the insulation and heating systems in their home we can save the output of five gas-fired power stations."

The PIU considered the implications of a report by the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, which urged a 60% cut over the next 50 years in the UK's emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2).

Solar panels   1999 EyeWire, Inc.
Solar power has huge potential
First indications were that review would come down against the nuclear option by insisting that new projects cover the costs of insurance and waste disposal, making them commercially unviable.

Instead, the report leaves the door open to the nuclear industry.

There were claims that energy minister Brian Wilson put pressure on the PIU team, insisting that the nuclear option should not be closed down.

Mr Wilson rubbished the claims as conspiratorial nonsense which was offensive to PIU team.

"It says very definitely that the door should be kept open to the nuclear industry because maybe we are going to need it and certainly we should maintain the research and development and the skills base," he said.

British Nuclear Fuels's Chief Executive Norman Askew welcomed the report adding that a low carbon future could only be delivered with nuclear generation and renewables contributing in tandem.

Green revolution

Our correspondent says critics on both sides are expected to say that chances to clarify plans for the industry have been missed.

But a spokesman for Friends of the Earth admitted many of the proposals were radical.

"We have seen nuclear power receive the lion's share of investment in terms of research and development funds over the last 25 years.

"Renewable energy's time has come and we would like to see research and development in the renewables option not in the nuclear."

He said there was a big onus on householders to be more efficient and in doing so they will save money.

The Cabinet is expected to announce its energy policy later this year or early in 2003.

The BBC's Richard Bilton
"Though these are only recommendations some see it as a missed opportunity"
The Government's chief scientist, David King
"We need to keep the nuclear option open"
Charles Secrett, Friends of the Earth
"We have to be ambitious about renewable fuel"
See also:

14 Feb 02 | Americas
US plans Kyoto alternative
14 Feb 02 | Sci/Tech
UK faces hard energy choice
18 Feb 02 | Sci/Tech
Nuclear power may rise again
12 Nov 01 | UK
Q&A: Wind and wave power
13 Dec 01 | Sci/Tech
Blair warned on carbon cuts
14 Feb 02 | Sci/Tech
UK heads towards greener future
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