Government

Yeo proposes energy bill decarbonisation amendment

The Conservative party could face a backbench rebellion after Conservative MP and Chair of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee, Tim Yeo, said that he will propose an amendment to the Energy Bill to deliver a decarbonisation target for the electricity sector.

A decarbonisation target for the sector, which many, including the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) and Labour leader, Ed Miliband had called for, was not included in this Energy Bill. Instead, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said that the decision on whether to ‘set a range for carbon emissions in 2030’ will be taken when the Committee on Climate Change has ‘provided advice in 2016 on the 5th Carbon Budget which will cover the corresponding period (2028-2033), and once the government has set that budget’.

However, speaking at an event at the London headquarters of news agency, Bloomberg, this morning (18 December), Yeo said that he would not “stand by and watch the wrong decision being made on energy policy”.

Tim YeoHe added that on the “eve of the first parliamentary debate on the energy bill” (the legislation is due for a second reading in parliament tomorrow (19 December), before being scrutinized by a committee of lawmakers), he was announcing his intention to submit an amendment to the legislation to include an emissions target to ‘clean up’ the power sector by 2030.

This would propose an amendment to see power plants “produce less than 100 grams of carbon dioxide per kWh of electricity".

Yeo said he would seek to introduce the amendment after the Bill's report stage, at the end February and added that there was a "realistic chance" the amendment would be passed, given its support with MPs and the CCC.

"Lumbering the UK economy with a centralised power system largely reliant on gas, would be like running an office using a fax machine in the age of the iPad”, Yeo said.

"Gas does have a significant role to play as we make the transition to a low carbon economy, but it would be rash to bet the future on one fuel or energy source. It is time to upgrade our electricity system to 2.0."

Adding that both the government and the present one had been “dithering and indecisive on energy and climate change policy", he also cautioned against the exploration of shale gas, saying that it had “seduced some in government into premature confidence that it is an energy panacea; a golden calf that can meet all of our energy needs cheaply and even revive lost manufacturing industries."

He added: "But we must remember: the scale of recoverable reserves is not yet known and gas power stations are considerably more polluting than the cleanest forms of renewable energy currently available.”

Yeo concluded that Britain can either “embrace the technology of the future, set a target to reduce our present heavy dependence on fossil fuels and upgrade our electricity system” or “cling to the combustion-based technologies of the past, gamble the future on assumptions about the availability of abundant cheap gas and slow down the process of decarbonising our economy”.

Welcoming Tim Yeo's decarbonisation target proposal today, Friends of the Earth's Executive Director, Andy Atkins, said: "A target for cleaning up the power sector is essential - it would give businesses the confidence to invest in clean energy, create jobs and end the nation's crippling dependence on dirty and increasingly costly fossil fuels.

"The driving force behind rocketing fuel bills is the mounting cost of wholesale gas, with experts predicting further rises in the years to come.

"If we want to create a clean, safe and affordable energy system the government must abandon its reckless dash for gas which threatens to send the UK hurtling towards an increasingly expensive future and shatter UK targets for tackling climate change."

Read the Energy Bill.