The UK secretary of state for energy and climate change has made a bold announcement: the country aims to close its coal-fired power plants by 2025. The country will turn to nuclear and natural gas to complement renewable energy.
Britain has made energy history: on Wednesday, it became the first major economy to put a date on shutting coal-fired power plants in a bid to cut its carbon emissions, reports Reuter.
The announcement was made by the UK secretary of state for energy and climate change Amber Rudd. Speaking at the Institution of Civil Engineers in London, she said: “It cannot be satisfactory for an advanced economy like the UK to be relying on polluting, carbon-intensive 50-year-old coal-fired power stations.”
One-third of Britain’s electricity came from coal-fired plants in 2014, reports Reuters. And despite the UK’s huge growth in renewables, its dependence on coal – which Rudd calls “the dirtiest fossil fuel” – hasn’t been reduced. In fact, a higher proportion of the country’s electricity came from coal last year than in 1999.
Rudd announced that the government will launch consultations in the spring on when precisely to close the country’s coal-fired power plants, but that its proposal is to close them by 2025 and already restrict the use of coal from 2023.
But she also made clear that gas will play a key role in the future energy mix: “We’ll only proceed if we’re confident that the shift to new gas can be achieved within these timelines.”
Not everyone was happy with the announcement, including environmentalists: “Phasing out coal is essential for the climate. But switching from coal to gas is like an alcoholic switching from two bottles of whisky a day to two bottles of port,” Simon Bullock of the environmental group Friends of the Earth told Reuters.
And to the dismay of nuclear opponents, Rudd also highlighted the importance of nuclear energy in weaning the UK off coal: “Opponents of nuclear misread the science. It is safe and reliable. The challenge, as with other low carbon technologies, is to deliver nuclear power which is low cost as well. Green energy must be cheap energy.”
Rudd went on to emphasise her government’s support for offshore wind, and said that the government intends to make funding available for three auctions, the first of which will be held by the end of 2016. Under the government’s current plans, it should expect to see 10 GW of offshore wind installed by 2020.