Letter from Chris Huhne in response to Financial Times leader

Your leading article (Monday 2nd August) suggests that the Government does not seem gripped by sufficient urgency in pushing nuclear power and that “green dogma threatens to saddle it with the wrong energy policies”. You are wrong on both counts.

I have said clearly – most recently in the annual energy statement – that nuclear power will play a important part in our future energy mix, and that the Government will continue with all the facilitating measures such as streamlined planning and the national policy statements. Moreover, nuclear power will benefit from the framework put in place to encourage low carbon electricity generation, such as the European Union’s emissions trading scheme and our own plans for a carbon price floor to provide greater investor certainty. What nuclear will not have – and this is common across all three parties in Britain – is public subsidy specific to the industry, because it is a mature technology unlike the infant industries of renewables. Given our policy framework, and the outlook for oil, gas and carbon prices, I am nevertheless confident that there will be new nuclear power as planned by 2018.

Given the uncertainties about costs in the future, however, any energy strategy must adopt a portfolio approach to different technologies. I would indeed like to increase the proportion of Britain’s energy that comes from renewables such as wind, wave, tidal, biomass and energy from waste, not least because it is currently the third lowest of all 27 members of the European Union. The proportion of our supply coming from renewables is also lower than in the United States.

In addition, we are planning the biggest programme of energy saving ever undertaken, as this is the cheapest way of closing the energy gap between demand and supply. This will also – in combination with nuclear and renewable electricity generation – provide us with an important cushion against the increasingly uncertain markets for oil and gas in the coming decades. Our objectives for low carbon emissions and energy security are entirely compatible.

Yours sincerely,

Chris Huhne MP
Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change
3 Whitehall Place SW1A 2HD