Government energy review "hasty"

17-07-2006

Government energy review "hasty"
The government is in danger of "rushing into hasty decisions" about the country's future energy supply, MPs have warned.

The warning comes ahead of the government's awaited review of energy policy, which is expected to be published tomorrow and which press reports claim will endorse the construction of a new generation of nuclear power stations, while also proposing measures to boost the use of renewable energy.

But in a report published today, parliament's trade and industry select committee said it was concerned that the government had "already made its mind up on nuclear power" and had determined the outcome of the review in advance.

In May, the prime minister, Tony Blair, said that the question of whether to replace Britain's ageing nuclear power plants with new models was "back on the agenda with a vengeance", prompting many commentators to conclude that the government had decided to back the future use of nuclear power.

In its report, the trade and industry select committee criticised the way in which ministers have carried out the review of energy policy, claiming: "Throughout the process, the government has hinted strongly that it has already made its mind up on nuclear power."

MPs also allege that the government failed to carry out a "full and proper assessment" of the UK's projected future generating capacity before undertaking the review, stating that fears of an imminent "energy gap" may have been overstated as a result.

While not taking a stance either for or against the construction of a new generation of nuclear power plants, the committee concluded that the government would need to consider extending the life of some existing plants in order to meet future energy needs.

Criticising the government for failing to sufficiently consult with Britain's main political parties over its energy review, MPs also warned that there would need to be "a broad national, cross-party consensus" if a new generation of nuclear power stations were to be built.

In particular, they stressed that a "clear strategy" for the disposal of existing radioactive waste would need to be decided in order to gain both public and industry support for a new bulding programme.

But the committee added that the government should remain "technology neutral" and that rather than favouring one energy source over another it should allow the market to determine the mix of supply.

"It is vital that the government’s energy policy is based on a full consideration of the evidence and has broad political and public support — otherwise, we risk repeating the mistakes of the past," said trade and industry select committee chairman, Peter Luff.

"However, the government’s energy review risks being seen as little more than a rubber-stamping exercise for a decision the prime minister took some time ago," he added.

Related categories: Public Sector, Manufacturing / Industry.


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