Former Environment Secretary calls to reshape UK energy policy

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Former Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Owen Paterson, in a speech to the Global Warming Policy Foundation (a think tank known for its criticism of main stream climate change policy), has outlined his ‘four pillars of energy policy.’

Mr Paterson calls for:

  • a rapid development of UK shale gas.  He claims this would reduce gas prices and is environmentally less damaging than wind power;
  • development of much more combined heat and power for local communities;
  • dozens of small scale nuclear reactors to be built near centres of population incorporating district and/or process heating; and
  • development of ‘dynamic demand management’ where appliances and equipment could be switched off for short periods during periods of high demand.

He also criticises the development of wind power on the basis of cost/subsidy and questions the technology’s environmental performance.

Interestingly, Mr Paterson’s suggestions are similar to the direction the current coalition are taking.  They are involving strengthening planning policy for onshore wind, supporting the development of shale gas and the development of demand management technology. The call for development of small scale nuclear power is interesting but dependent on many factors such as regulatory approvals, proven technology demonstration and, of course, the economic benefits.

Many would agree that the development of combined heat and power/district heating in the UK has been slow and should be looked at further.

The most controversial aspect of his speech is probably calling for the Climate Change Act to be suspended and eventually repealed.  The Act sets a legally binding framework for the UK of emission reduction objectives, together with European policy, is a key driver for low carbon development.

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