By Michael Mariotte

Existing reactors at the Hinkley Point site in southern England, where the UK wants to build the single most expensive nuclear reactor ever considered by any nation. Photo from Wikipedia.

The headlines flash daily about major changes in energy policy in the UK; none of them good news. The slashing of support for solar, energy efficiency and other clean energy programs and at the same time an apparent intent to spend absolutely mind-blowing amounts of money on new, untried, and highly risky nuclear power reactors. From the point of view of an America where, haltingly but steadily, clean energy is gaining a true foothold and is moving ahead, it seems incomprehensible that our closest ally would move in the opposite direction of most of the world’s industrial economies. Could that really be true?

So we asked veteran UK activist Pete Roche to explain what is happening in the UK. And no, the news really is not good.

David Cameron’s Conservative Government has now been in power in the UK, without the constraining influence of the Liberal Democrats, for 100 days. From the point-of-view of the environment his new government has been an unmitigated disaster; marked by a sharp embrace of dirty energy sources in a fashion most advanced nations, even including the U.S., are stepping away from.

From the moment the new Government was elected it set about burning the green policies of the previous coalition government. Subsidies for new onshore wind farms, paid for through consumers’ bills, are to end from April next year as are subsidies for solar farms. There will be a review of the feed-in tariff threatening subsidies for solar panels on domestic and commercial roof tops. And other proposed changes will make it much harder for community renewable projects to obtain finance.

The Government has also killed off the Green Deal scheme which provided loans to households for energy efficiency improvements. The scheme was a damp squib but what’s striking is there are no proposals to replace it. And a decade-long plan to force all new homes to be ‘zero carbon’ from 2016 has been dumped. On top of all this the exemption for renewables from the Climate Change Levy–a kind of carbon tax–has been removed, effectively imposing cuts to the income of renewable projects already up and running retrospectively.

The new Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Amber Rudd, told Members of Parliament (MPs) that carbon reduction targets are a bigger priority than meeting renewable energy targets, signalling that she is prepared to miss the UK’s European Union Renewable Target of meeting 15% of our energy needs (not just electricity) from renewable sources by 2020. Instead she will try to meet the UK’s carbon reduction commitments with nuclear power and fracked gas. She defends her cuts to renewable energy subsidies saying “we need to reduce our emissions in the most cost-effective way.” Cutting support for the very technologies–onshore wind and solar–that can deliver both lower bills and energy security in the long term seems to …read more

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