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UK Policy Background

This piece about the 2003 Energy White Paper first appeared on on 24 February 2003

Download a copy of the White Paper from the DTI web site 

The Government’s long-awaited Energy White Paper will be announced in a speech by the Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair, today. It is expected to emphasize renewable energy sources and reducing waste, but will not absolutely rule out the building of new nuclear power stations in the future. The result is likely to please neither Green nor nuclear lobby.

The White Paper appears amid warnings that its reliance on expensive renewables could see household power bills rocket by 15% by 2020.

The Paper also scraps a "pledge" that 20% of UK energy will derive from renewable sources by 2020. The pledge has now become a Government "aspiration".

The key points of the paper are expected to be:

  • Cutting carbon dioxide emissions in Britain by 60% by 2050
  • Investing £350million in R&D for renewables*
  • No specific target for renewables contribution
  • No new plans for nuclear build
  • Warning that UK will be net importer of gas in 3 years and of oil by 2010
  • Call for industrialised nations to form a covenant to protect the environment
*The Government is also expected to back a new research institute into alternative energy sources.

All this leaves the Government in a fix over a predicted "energy gap". It could attempt to back up unreliable wind- and wave-generated electricity with nuclear, or with coal - but would rather do neither, because it is anti-coal, and anti-nuke. The energy gap remains to be filled.

If you would like to ask questions about this of the responsible minister, Mr Brian Wilson MP, come along to this year's Sir Peter Kent Lecture on 12 March.