UK Government Splits Deepen Over Energy Policy
The Liberal Democrats will this week throw down the gauntlet to George Osborne by calling for more green energy and an end to traditional gas power. Ed Davey, the Energy Secretary, and Danny Alexander, the Chancellor’s number two, will call for electricity to be made almost entirely from green sources such as wind farms and nuclear by 2030.
Their backing for wholly green electricity at the Liberal Democrat party conference will be seen as a major challenge to Mr Osborne, who is strongly in favour of exploiting Britain’s gas reserves.
The Chancellor has been fighting to reduce subsidies for green energy amid complaints from Conservative backbenchers that wind turbines are expensive eyesores. He has also recently given tax breaks to North Sea explorers in the hope of reviving Britain’s reputation as a “gas hub”.
The row over energy has now become a major fault-line in the Coalition that is set to define the next few years.
Government advisors from the Committee on Climate Change believe it is essential for Britain to “de-carbonise” its electricity by 2030 to help tackle climate change.
It has warned David Cameron that a failure to abandon traditional gas and coal power will lead Britain to break the law on dealing with global warming.
The only way of continuing to burn gas would be if new technology succeeds in taking carbon dioxide out of fossil fuels.
The issue will become even more high-profile this week as the Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary will give his backing to a 2030 target for green electricity.
A warning shot will be fired on Monday when Mr Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, proposes a motion calling for “de-carbonisation” by 2030.
He will also criticise the Conservatives for their “refusal” to invest in green technologies to help economic growth.
Nick Clegg, the deputy Prime Minister, will also signal he wants a debate on the issue.
Sources said the Liberal Democrats are well aware the Treasury is “yet to be convinced” about a 2030 target.
Their backing for green electricity targets also allies the Liberal Democrats with Labour.
Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, will call on the Government to set a “clear goal” of producing only green electricity by 2030.
“At a time when the British economy is desperately in search of new sources of growth, the potential for a green industrial revolution is huge,” he says in an article for the Green Alliance journal.
Green groups, such as Friends of the Earth, welcomed the backing for green electricity.
Andy Atkins, director of the environmental charity, said: “This is exactly the type of leadership that’s urgently needed – politicians from all parties must stand up to George Osborne and his reckless dash for gas.”