UK Government should ‘impose’ energy projects on devolved nations says Conservative editor
The UK Government should “impose” energy projects on the devolved nations, a Conservative editor has said.
Conservative Home deputy editor Henry Hill was responding to the suggestion by Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng that they should respect Wales and Scotland’s devolved competencies.
Planning powers are devolved to Scotland, meaning that they could block any new nuclear site. The Welsh Government has the power to consent energy projects with a generating capacity of up to 350MW, meaning that the power to give the go-ahead to a nuclear power plant is reserved to Westminster.
Kwasi Kwarteng said the nuclear reactors are being planned for England and Wales, insisting there is “huge appetite” for this “particularly in Wales”.
But he said: “We have no plans to impose nuclear reactors in Scotland. It is a devolved affair, that is up to people in Edinburgh to decide what their nuclear policy is.”
But Henry Hill said that “energy should not be evolved” saying that the UK Government should not “give a veto” to those opposing their energy plans.
“The ability of a (democratically-elected!) central government to impose decisions reflects the facts that many things of great benefit to the nation impose local costs; if you give local communities a veto, vital infrastructure doesn’t get built and we’re all poorer for it.
“In this case, Scotland will benefit as much as the rest of the UK from greater British energy security. It should therefore play its full part in delivering it, including through the construction of nuclear plants.
“Unfortunately, the Government and its predecessors have instead given the SNP free rein to indulge their unscientific antipathy to one of the best sources of clean energy we have – and likely free-ride on the British solution being delivered elsewhere. Energy should not be devolved.”
Yesterday a Welsh minister slammed Boris Johnson over his “indefensible” energy strategy, published yesterday, saying that it took the UK in the wrong direction after “years of regressive energy policy”.
As part of the strategy unveiled yesterday, the UK Government announced a new licensing round for North Sea oil and new gas projects are planned for the autumn to cover the “nearer term” need to expand the energy supply.
But Julie James, MS Minister for Climate Change said that she was shocked that the UK Government had “committed to expanding the extraction of fossil fuels”.
“No government being honest about their commitment to net zero could look at options to explore new fossil fuel extraction,” she said.
“We will continue to oppose the extraction of fossils fuels in Wales, we will continue to oppose fracking and we will be supporting the transition away from the use of fossil fuels as soon as is practicably possible.
“Instead of perpetuating our reliance on fossil fuels, the strategy should have been setting the conditions for the expansion of renewables and flexibility on the scale needed to meet net zero.
“Here the strategy is again lacking. The UK Government has not taken the opportunity to expand onshore wind generation. With its significant cost advantage compared to most other forms of energy generation, the UK Government has ignored the needs of consumers in the exploration of one of the cheapest sources of green energy and instead focused on the needs of backbench Conservative MPs.
“Here in Wales we will continue to support new investment in on-shore wind by working with communities to maximise the economic and social value of investment, including ways to use new generation to directly reduce the costs of domestic energy bills.”
The Climate Change minister added that it was “deeply disappointing” that the UK Government’s strategy did not recognise the potential from using tidal resources to generate predictable renewable energy.
“The case for the deployment of tidal range technology has already been made, most recently in the 2017 Hendry review,” she said. “However, the UK Government has failed to set out a clear strategy for supporting this technology that has the potential to generate a significant proportion of our baseload needs when generation from wind and solar is low.”
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