UK . Emissions

The British government has published its new energy bill. It incorporates a number of commitments made in the UK’s energy white paper published in 2003, and is based on four main objectives – environmental protection, energy reliability, competitive markets and generally available affordable energy. It includes plans to merge the power transmission markets in England and Wales with that in Scotland, and so create a single, competitive power market for Great Britain.

Introducing the bill, energy minister Stephen Timms described it as proof that the UK is serious about meeting its challenging environmental targets, in particular its aim of ensuring that 10% of the country’s electricity comes from renewable sources by 2010. To that end it contains measures to help meet a new target, of 20% by 2020, and introduces measures directed at ensuring that CO2 emissions drop by 60% by 2050. It formally sets up the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, a public body which will take over from BNFL the responsibility for decommissioning its nuclear facilities as they reach the end of their lives. For the first time, one public body will have complete responsibility for the clean-up of the UK’s civil nuclear sites, and for the effective management of its nuclear waste.

The UK is to continue with its policy of keeping open the nuclear option, marginally. Stephen Timms, the UK energy minister responsible for energy, told a meeting of nuclear industrialists that new nuclear build is “not a realistic proposition for today” but that the UK should “keep the nuclear option open”. In practice this means continuing to finance nuclear fission research, both domestically and internationally, and licensing Cogent, the skills council for the oil gas and chemical sectors to cover nuclear matters as well. He went on to acknowledge that nuclear is a carbon free source of energy, but “more convincing answers” are needed to the problems of economics and waste before proceeding with new build. The nuclear option, he added, was being kept open in case it would be needed in the future. This is taken to mean that if the government’s confidence in its wind power initiative proves unfounded, nuclear will still be there as a back-up option. The government is due to review its new-build policy in 2006, but Mr Timms made it plain that a positive verdict is unlikely.

•The UK government has ext-

ended its existing Renewables Obligation watershed, currently set at the year 2010, by five years in an attempt to boost support for green energy projects by increasing confidence among developers. As things stand electricity suppliers must provide a proportion of their output from green sources. The current figure is 4.3 %, increasing in stages to 10.4 % in 2010. The new target will be 15.4 % in stages by 2015.