A Question. What is Britain’s energy policy?
With subsidies for onshore wind farms being blocked, support for the solar industry scaled back and George Osborne trying to persuade the Chinese to invest in a new generation of nuclear power stations, this burning question becomes even more pertinent following the decision of Drax power station to withdraw its support from a pioneering carbon capture scheme critical to the future production of clean energy in Yorkshire and the safeguarding of traditional manufacturing industries.
Though backers of the ‘White Rose’ scheme remain confident that the Drax decision is not a terminal blow, confidence has been undermined by a government looking to appease restless Tory backbenchers, longstanding opponents of wind farms and green energy, following five years in which energy policy was left at the mercy of the Liberal Democrats. Unless a coherent strategy is agreed, and then implemented, Britain will become even more dependent on gas and electricity imports to keep the lights burning – an unacceptable situation in an uncertain world when leaders like Russia’s Vladimir Putin are prepared to hold supplies to ransom.
It’s also another setback to the Chancellor’s Northern Powerhouse strategy – clean energy, and a guarantee of supplies, is supposed to be one of the principles propping up this project. The political context is critical as Mr Osborne looks to assert his authority – no long-term economic plan, however meritorious, can be delivered without a long-term energy policy and the Government need to recognise this at the earliest opportunity. For, unless it does, the prospect of factories and other higher-energy users having to restrict their hours of operating, thereby impinging upon their productivity, will move a step nearer. It’s that serious.