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Head of Energy and Environment responds to UKGOV’s new energy strategy

Hydrocarbon Engineering,

Head of Energy and Environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Dr Jenifer Baxter released this statement in response to the UK Government's newly revealed energy strategy, “The announcement that all traditional coal-fired power plants will close by 2025 was expected but is a positive move. However, although gas produces about half the amount of carbon emissions than coal, we should not look at building more gas power plants as a silver bullet solution to creating a secure, affordable and clean energy system. Increasing demand for natural gas will lead to other ‘difficult’ challenges in securing the gas network in the UK. This may include more imports and potentially greater use of shale gas.”

She continues, “Nuclear power generation has a role to play, as this does not generate any direct carbon emissions at all, but does require significant investment into the safe and environmental management of the whole cycle of nuclear fuel. The UK should be seen as a nation leading the development of a low carbon energy system for the future and to achieve this we need to invest much more into the research & development of a new generation of renewable and low carbon energy.”

“As we lose large infrastructure in the UK, the capital and human resources associated with these sites are often lost too. Reusing current connections to the grid and retaining the engineering expertise in the region where coal fired power stations are closing, will help to retain skills and economic growth in those regions. The process of re-developing sites takes longer, but reduces excessive use of land for infrastructure and associated environmental impacts and supports industrial communities.”

“Although this announcement provides some clarity for investors, there is still no clear roadmap for how the UK will meet its ambitious carbon reduction targets especially leading up to UN meeting on Climate Change (COP21) in December. The cheapest options for energy still remain the options that produce carbon emissions, such as gas. The unfortunate reality is that by reducing spending, due to public sector cuts, it is likely to mean increasing emissions.”

Dr Baxter concluded, “We cannot allow the market alone to drive energy options, following this path means that we could end up with the worst case scenario in terms of pollution.”

Adapted from press release by Francesca Brindle

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