Chatham House: 'UK needs stronger policy on energy'

27 July 2010 | Lindsay Clark

The UK does not have a strategy for engaging with other governments to secure energy supplies and meet carbon emission targets, according to a report.

The study, by independent research group Chatham House said the end of Britain’s self-sufficiency in oil and gas meant its energy policy must include international partnership if it is to achieve economic, climate and energy security.

Securing the electricity supply is the most pressing challenge for the new coalition government, since about a quarter of generating capacity will probably close by 2020, the researchers said.

“The UK cannot plan for the world on these issues, but it can have a strategy for its actions in the world. With the exception of its approach to managing climate change in the UN negotiations, the UK does not have such a strategy,” said John Mitchell, an associate fellow at Chatham House.

Until uncertainties over energy policies and timescales are addressed, UK utility firms are likely to turn to gas instead of lower-carbon options such as renewable energies, nuclear power and coal with carbon capture and storage, the report said. The UK government must cooperate with governments in Europe and the wider world on strategic technologies, infrastructure and investment to meet the UK’s future energy needs. It needs to promote more ambitious emissions targets and lobby for liberalised trade and investment in energy technology, the report said.

Earlier this month UK climate change secretary Chris Huhne, German federal environment minister Norbert Röttgen and French environment minister Jean-Louis Borloo backed a 30 per cent reduction in EU emissions from 1990 levels by 2020, an increase from the current target of 20 per cent.

Chaham House also argued that the UK should help develop a strategy for a European energy “supergrid”, that would link renewable energy sources across the continent, and a coordinated EU-wide approach to trade and investment relationships with critical energy oil and gas suppliers. It said that stronger relationships in energy supply beyond Europe were also necessary.

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