Today sees the Conservative Party publish the interim findings of its energy review (see BBC report) and it steers something of a middle course between Tony Blair’s enthusiasm for nuclear power and the Liberal Democrats’ blanket opposition. This pragmatic policy – partly designed to encourage the kind of cross-party consensus on energy that will need to underpin long-term investment in new generating capacity – will also satisfy most Tory supporters. A ConservativeHome survey just last month found that only 12% of Tory members agreed with the LibDems’ opposition to nuclear power. 85% disagreed with it. David Cameron will tell the Local Government Association:
"Where the government sees nuclear power as the first choice, under our framework it would become a last resort; where the Liberal Democrats rule out nuclear power, we rule out subsidies and special favours for nuclear power."
Mr Cameron will go on to say that global warming represents the greatest long-term threat to the economy. Speaking to ConservativeHome last night, Alan Duncan MP promised that the overall tone of Mr Cameron’s speech – in tune with the energy review – will be optimistic. The Conservative Party believes that we are on the verge of a "green energy revolution" that will transform the debate about Britain’s energy security. Sceptics, however, will wonder if these technologies will mature fast enough to replace the the eighteen nuclear power stations and other gas and coal-fired plants that will be retiring over the next decade and which account for 25% of current UK generation capacity (Bloomberg).
Mr Cameron will tell the LGA that he is optimistic about the possibilities of local power generation – "I want Britain to be at the forefront of the green energy opportunity and I want local government to be in the forefront of Britain’s environmental progress… The future of energy is not top-down, it’s not centralised – it’s bottom-up and decentralised." Woking is the ‘poster-council’ for this approach. The BBC has reported that a cross-party consensus on that council has reduced "energy consumption and pollutants by 44% and carbon dioxide emissions by 72% between 1990 and 2002."
Conservative policy will also emphasise energy efficiency. The party has been strongly influenced by findings by the Rocky Mountain Institute which suggest that every pound invested in energy efficiency yields "seven times more "solution" than a pound invested in nuclear" (Zac Goldsmith in the Independent on Sunday).
Related link: On yesterday’s YourPlatform David Dundas wrote that Britain must embrace nuclear power if we are to secure our energy future.