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MPs warn 'dash for gas' could harm renewable energy industry

Key policy statements on energy policy may be delayed after MPs warned they could create uncertainty for new energy infrastructure development.

A report from the commons energy and climate change select committee said proposed changes to UK energy policy may lead to a “dash for gas” as utilities companies choose gas over renewable energy.

The six drafted national policy statements include the areas of renewable energy infrastructure, nuclear power generation and an overarching national policy statement on energy.

They are intended to set out national policy on key strategic planning topics, including energy policy areas, and to provide certainty for potential investors about the long-term policy environment.

The committee heard evidence from stakeholders including minister for energy Charles Hendry, the Nuclear Industry Association and Friends of the Earth.

It has now recommended a delay to the NPSs on energy until further progress is made on the national planning framework and the national infrastructure plan promised in last summer’s budget statement.

In their report, the committee add: “The development of too much gas capacity could crowd out opportunities for renewables to form a substantial component of the energy mix.”

Committee chairman Tim Yeo MP said: “If we want to keep the lights on and create an energy system fit for the future then new rules are needed to fast track energy projects through the UK’s notoriously glacial planning system.

“If these new policy statements don’t put the cleanest forms of energy at the top of the agenda they will leave us dangerously dependent on fossil fuels.”

Director general of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Tom Foulkes said: “Making investment in renewable energy sources less risky for potential investors is crucial if we are to ensure the UK has a secure and sustainable energy supply in future.

“Government must clearly demonstrate its long-term commitment to low carbon energy generation by setting an effective floor price for carbon and delivering on the principles outlined in the proposed electricity market reform.

“Only then will be able to attract the hefty investment needed and avoid an ongoing reliance on fossil fuels.”

Among their conclusions, the committee also warned that while the abolishment of the Infrastructure Planning Commission and creation of a Major Infrastructure Planning Unit improves democratic accountability, it raises questions about the impartiality of ministers.

The committee added that evidence suggests the level of investment required to meet the government’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction and energy security goals will be “difficult to achieve.

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