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IoD: UK governments have failed on energy

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Oilfield Technology,

Successive governments since the beginning of the century have failed to deliver secure and competitively priced energy, a new survey of business leaders revealed. A poll of nearly 1000 bosses by the Institute of Directors found that seven in 10 thought Labour, Coalition and Conservative administrations had all failed to make energy available at a reasonable cost. Two thirds also complained politicians had not succeeded in ensuring the UK would always have the power it needs.

Directors felt energy policy had been more successful in increasing the use of renewable sources (59% agreed) and reducing carbon emissions (45%), since British politicians first pivoted in this direction shortly after the turn of the millennium. In 2002, the Labour Government under Tony Blair launched a review of energy policy that led to the first targets to cut CO2 and has set the tone for policy makers since.

Dan Lewis, Senior Infrastructure Policy Adviser at the IoD said: “Since the early 2000s, government of all stripes have focussed on increasing use of renewable energy in order to reduce carbon emissions. Cutting CO2 is overwhelmingly supported by business, but politicians have underplayed the other two crucial aims of energy policy, delivering secure and affordable power. Following the creation of the new business and energy department, now is the ideal moment for the government to reconsider the direction of travel.

“Renewables are a significant, and growing, source of energy. The UK has the world’s highest offshore wind capacity, with much more expected. But technology based on the weather doesn’t work all of the time, so the UK needs a mix of renewables, nuclear and the cleanest hydrocarbons.

“Government policy at the moment is creating all sorts of bizarre outcomes. Instead of accelerating moves to safely frack for gas and oil in the UK, we are importing coal and oil from Russia and gas and oil from Norway, with the extra costs and emissions that involves. Instead of building cleaner gas plants to meet demand when renewables can’t, the government has been subsidising more polluting diesel-fired plants.

“The IoD backs nuclear as a reliable source of low carbon energy, but each project has to make economic sense. Hinkley Point C would generate reliable power for five million homes, but given the costs, the government is right to take one final look before signing off on the deal.”

Businesses want a broad mix of sources in the UK energy mix. A majority supported all mainstream forms of renewable power generation, although the most popular, wave and tidal, is still largely untested in the UK. Over half of IoD members also back hydraulic fracturing (known as fracking) of shale rock for oil and gas.

While IoD members have consistently supported building new nuclear power plants, firms are mixed on the Hinkley Point C project, which the government is considering before making a final decision. A narrow majority (53%) think Hinkley makes strategic sense, but less than half think it will make the UK more economically competitive.

Adapted from press release by Rosalie Starling

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