June 14th, 2006

A few words on nuclear power and the Prime Minister…

With colleagues giving evidence to the Trade and Industry Select Committee yesterday, and I finished up with a short exchange with the committee Chairman on whether the Prime Minister is listening to our advice on nuclear power and energy policy – namely that they should design technology-neutral markets structured with incentives to achieve climate-change and energy security objectives, rather than decide which technologies to use. We say design the market then let the market decide the technologies rather than pick winners and pay whatever they ask. That’s how emissions trading works, for example.

The Chairman asked if the PM’s speech to the CBI was consistent with that advice… I probably should have been diplomatic and said “well maybe he hasn’t got around to reading it yet” or something. Instead I said “no”. So this has been turned into a story “Blair accused of brushing aside nuclear energy advice” in The Scotsman.

But I do feel the PM is too bullish about the wrong things. He keeps talking up nuclear, when he should be focussed on energy market design – for example ensuring there is a long term price associated with carbon emissions and capacity or redundancy that improves energy security is rewarded in some way. Even if you were absolutely convinced nuclear is the right answer, you should still focus on market design, because in Britain’s liberalised energy market, new nuclear power stations wont be built unless the market is right. The Environment Agency’s input to the Energy Review is here.

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