Britain vows to build new gas power stations, plan draws criticism

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government on Tuesday pledged to build new gas-fired power stations to boost energy security, drawing criticism over his climate policies ahead of a general election this year.

The Conservative government, which aims to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050, announced in a statement that it would seek to construct the gas power plants to avert a threat of energy blackouts.

The UK has spearheaded low-carbon energies such as nuclear, solar and wind power in a strategy to combat sky-high domestic electricity and gas bills, which rocketed after key producer Russia invaded Ukraine in early 2022, cutting off gas supplies and sparking a cost-of-living crisis.

“The government has committed to support the building of new gas power stations to maintain a safe and reliable energy source for days when the weather forecast doesn’t power up renewables,” it said in Tuesday’s statement.

Sunak added that Britain needed to reach its net zero target “in a sustainable way that doesn’t leave people without energy on a cloudy, windless day”.

The independent Climate Change Committee (CCC), a UK body which advises the state, conceded last year that a “small amount” of gas-fired power in 2035 was “compatible with a decarbonised power system” in order to provide balance and ensure security of energy supplies.

Sunak last year softened his administration’s net zero goals, specifically by delaying a ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars by five years to 2035.

Power station announcement sparked anger

The UK has also issued a swathe of new oil and gas exploration licences to lift energy supplies amid Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.

“This is the latest step in efforts to reach net zero in a sustainable, pragmatic way that rids the UK of the need to rely on foreign dictators like Putin,” the British government added Tuesday.

“The UK led the way on banning imports of Russian gas and is delivering new sources of home-grown energy: with new nuclear power plants, record investment in renewables, and new oil and gas licences in the North Sea.”

The announcements sparked anger from environmentalists who argue they are counter to the nation’s net zero ambitions.

“The government’s cunning plan to boost energy security and meet our climate goals is to make Britain more dependent on the very fossil fuel that sent our bills rocketing and the planet’s temperature soaring,” said Greenpeace UK policy director Doug Parr.

“The only route to a low-cost, secure and clean energy system is through attracting massive private investment to develop renewables and upgrade our ageing grid, but this government has failed on both fronts.”

The South African website wonders if Eskom will be consulted …

By Garrin Lambley © Agence France-Presse

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