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Facing Blackouts, Britain Re-Considers Costly Climate Policy

Jonathan Leake and Tim Shipman, The Sunday Times

Britain needs to build the equivalent of more than 25 large power stations to meet its power needs over the next two decades, Amber Rudd, the energy secretary, will warn this week.

She will say that the nation’s energy security will be under threat unless it starts replacing its old nuclear and coal power stations.

Rudd, who is attempting to regain the initiative amid criticism over her grip on the energy brief, will say that mismanagement by her predecessors plus “spiralling subsidies” for renewable energy have left people facing unacceptable costs.

She will also hint she wants a rethink on the government’s commitment to combating climate change, which legally obliges it to cut greenhouse gas emissions from the equivalent of 568m tonnes of CO2 in 2013 to less than 250m tonnes in 2032. This is seen as a challenge that could only be met by deployment of nuclear, wind and solar power, at a cost which, Rudd believes, would be unacceptable to consumers.

“The challenge for us now is to get back to a market that delivers secure, reliable and affordable energy for families and businesses,” she will say. “It means controlling subsidies, and balancing the need to decarbonise with the need to keep bills as low as possible.”

Her speech anticipates the fifth carbon budget report, being published later this month by the government’s committee on climate change (CCC), which will set out the huge cuts needed in greenhouse gas emissions alongside an expansion of power generating capacity from 68 gigawatts to about 100 gigawatts. One gigawatt is roughly the output of a single large power station.

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