Lib Dems are rapidly losing their green credentials via Utility Week

The Energy Minister wasn’t talking about power sector decarbonisation or a nationwide home insulation scheme, he was referring to a 5p charge on plastic bags. Welcome though this is, it’s a drop in the ocean when it comes to addressing the huge environmental challenges we face.

The reality is that the Liberal Democrats’ green credibility has been sinking for some time – and their decision to scrap their historic opposition to new nuclear reactors punched yet another hole in their once flagship commitment to champion the environment.

Since coming to power the coalition’s pledge to be the ‘greenest Government ever’ has become something of a joke. But not a very funny one.

The energy challenges we face are substantial. We urgently need a power sector that meets our needs and provides affordable energy, but without wrecking the planet.

Energy efficiency is key, but the coalition has failed to deliver. Indeed the Green Deal, its flagship energy efficiency measure, has led to a catastrophic collapse in the number of heat-leaking homes getting insulated.

Furthermore, rather than taking steps to end the nation’s fossil fuel dependency, the coalition has actively fuelled it’s addiction with tax breaks for shale gas and oil and plans for up to 40 new gas-fired power stations – moves the Liberal Democrats have done little to stop.

And then there was the leadership’s decision to vote against a 2030 power sector decarbonisation target in the Energy Bill.

Of course nuclear power is a low-carbon energy source. This was one reason Ed Davey gave for backing it, while stressing he was “absolutely determined not to sign any contract for new nuclear power stations which relied on public subsidy.”

But nuclear power comes with massive costs. As far as I’m aware, not a single plant has been built anywhere in the world – let alone decommissioned – without some public subsidy.

Ed Davey is deluded if he thinks new reactors can go ahead without significant public subsidy. Why does he need to seek approval for potential nuclear contracts under state aid rules if they don’t constitute state aid? As Fiona Hall MEP told the Lib Dem conference in Glasgow, “If it looks like a subsidy and smells like a subsidy, it is a subsidy.”

My biggest problem with nuclear is it’s a massive distraction from developing alternatives, such as energy efficiency, renewable power and smart grids. If we’d spent half the financial or political capital wasted on nuclear in recent decades, we’d be living in a totally different and much better energy reality.

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