June 2013 marked the point in history that the United States finally launched its climate change strategy. The world’s major scientific academies are unequivocal that climate change is a major threat. Yet the internationally agreed target to limit global warming to no more than 2 degrees is slipping from our grasp. All the increases in renewable energy remain minuscule in terms of global energy provision, which remains dominated by coal. The International Energy Agency recently confirmed that globally each unit of energy now produced is as dirty as it was 20 years ago. Governments are largely failing to respond to address this.
In the United Kingdom, the 2008 Climate Change Act set a legal obligation to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent from 1990 levels by 2050. To help meet that ambitious target, the government has embarked on a policy of electricity market reform, or EMR, to stimulate investment in low carbon energy by private sector developers. The IEA recommends countries follow the UK example of EMR to incentivise investment in low carbon technologies – renewables, carbon capture and nuclear. The goal is to de-risk investment in low carbon technologies, create price stability for consumers, and allow investors to recoup high upfront capital costs.
The on-going negotiations between the government and EDF Energy around the long term contracts for the proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear power station represent the first major test of the EMR proposals. The outcome is being watched very intently by potential investors and developers both here and overseas. If it were to fall at the first hurdle it would severely dent investor confidence, not only in nuclear but in other energy projects too. The government’s energy policy, which is designed to protect our energy security, and which has cross-party support, would be at risk.
* Read more via Public Service Europe.