Britain will no longer pursue green energy at all costs and will instead make keeping the lights on the top priority, Amber Rudd, the energy secretary, will vow this week.
Households already face paying over-the-odds for energy for years to come as a result of expensive subsidies handed out to wind and solar farms by her Labour and Lib Dem predecessors, Ms Rudd will warn.
In a major speech setting out a new strategy, the energy secretary is expected to say that from now on, policies will balance “the need to decarbonise with the need to keep bills as low as possible”.
“Energy security has to be the first priority. It is fundamental to the health of our economy and the lives of our people,” she will say.
The energy department is understood to be considering announcing a closure date for Britain’s remaining coal plants – potentially requiring a shutdown as early as 2023, although policy details were still being thrashed out this weekend.
Any such move would be highly controversial as coal power stations produced 29 per cent of UK electricity last year and the closure of some plants has already increased the risk of blackouts.
But Ms Rudd is expected to warn that the remaining old coal plants are becoming increasingly unreliable, highlighting breakdowns at several plants earlier this month that forced National Grid to resort to emergency measures to keep the lights on.
While coal will have a role in the “short term”, she will say that “longer term, it seems obvious that the risks from relying on ageing coal plant, which requires heavy investment just to maintain the plant, will increase”.
The energy secretary will disclose she has asked the National Grid to review the old coal fleet to “assess whether coal reliability is worsening”.