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Hutton Statement On Fossil Fuels

Press Release
13 Mar 2008

Is John Hutton right or wrong asks The Renewable Energy

A speech which was delivered by John Hutton, Business Secretary in London this week has caused a great deal of concern amongst opposition party leaders and green campaigners.

The statement, which highlighted the continued need for and the development of fossil fuel sources for the UK’s energy supplies, has caused many to question the government’s stance on renewable energy and emissions targets.

The issue surrounds the E’on power station in Kingsnorth, Kent which the company intends to demolish and rebuild. In its proposals E’on claims the new plant will actually reduce current emissions by 20% through the use of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, which is a process by which carbon emissions are stored under the sea rather emitted into the air.

Green campaigners are worried that Kingsnorth is only the beginning of this trend as there are already seven other planning proposals in the pipeline. Hutton’s justification for the likely approval of the Kingsnorth power plant was that it was a “back-up” solution. He stated that nuclear and renewable energy would not cover the demand for electricity at peak times such as winter and “therefore we will need this back up from fossil fuels, with coal a key source of that flexibility, as we increase the proportion of renewable energy in our electricity mix.”

The Renewable Energy Centre said the decision would come as a significant blow to the renewable sector as further action and commitment from the government was required to grow and develop the UK’s renewable energy potential. However it agreed with Hutton that the use of fossil fuels was still necessary to satisfy current energy demands and if CCS was integrated as a compulsory measure, it would help to alleviate some of the concern over continued emissions.

Although Mr Hutton was clear he had not made any final decisions on the E’on proposal, The Renewable Energy Centre said it was essential for CCS technology to have been proven a workable solution if the government were to save face if the power station went ahead. Jonathon Porritt Chairman of the Sustainable Development Commission warned that investment in the technology thus far had been “pathetic” and stated that “nobody is serious about making those technologies work for a sustainable, low carbon economy”.

Richard Simmons, Managing Director of The Renewable Energy Centre commented saying “It is critical that the government looks at the big picture. While we still have relatively easy access to fossil fuels it would seem logical to use them in a carbon efficient way. However focus needs to be given to planning a ten year strategy that will reach the emissions targets we have committed to and allow the UK to see the transference of power supply to renewable energy sources. As yet the government is dipping its toe in waters to test every possible solution available when really it should be driving forward with a focused investment in our sustainable future.”

Undoubtedly the back lash to Hutton’s statement will continue however The Renewable Energy Centre reiterated its pledge to continue to positively promote renewable energy and lobby for further investment and legislation in technology and implementation.

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