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ENERGY MINISTER SEEKS 'WIDEST ENGAGEMENT IN VITAL DEBATE'

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Birmingham should play its part in the debate about the country's future energy policy, energy minister Malcolm Wic...
Birmingham should play its part in the debate about the country's future energy policy, energy minister Malcolm Wicks said today as he visited the city to meet businesses, environmental groups and other stakeholders from the region.

Mr Wicks, who has been asked by the prime minister to lead a review of long-term energy policy, was visiting as part of a three-month public consultation about how the country should meet its energy challenges.

Mr Wicks said:

'I want the widest possible engagement in this vital debate, and that includes people and businesses from Birmingham and across the Midlands. We need to look long-term at the risks to security of supply, our climate change commitments and how we can make sure the most vulnerable can afford to heat and light their homes.

'The challenges are complex and interrelated. There is no single simple option that will answer all the questions we're asking and no tick-box 'yes' or 'no' answers.

'Global fossil fuel prices are on the rise and, with the gradual decline of gas from the North Sea, we're starting to rely more on imports from abroad. In a world of heightened concerns about energy security, highlighted by the recent dispute between Russia and the Ukraine, we need to look carefully at the risks of this new situation.

'By 2020, coal and nuclear power plants generating about 30% of today's electricity are expected to have closed. Companies will need to decide how this should be replaced. If more gas were to fill the gap, how comfortable will we be relying on imports for 80% of our supplies? And what would be the impact on our ability to reduce carbon emissions?

'We also need to look closer to home. Thirty per cent of energy is used domestically with each resident in the West Midlands responsible on average for emitting 2.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually. The plasma TV generation is increasingly packing homes with consumer electronics, domestic appliances and gadgets, often left needlessly on standby. This squanders more than£740m worth of energy and this contributes to over four million tonnes of excess carbon dioxide emissions every year, significantly contributing to climate change.

'If we are going to make the best decisions for our energy future, we all, experts and public alike, in Birmingham and across the Midlands, need to engage constructively in the debate over the coming months.'

The key questions posed by the consultation document are:

* What more could the Government do on the demand or supply side for energy to ensure that the UK's long-term goal of reducing carbon emissions is met?

* With the UK becoming a net energy importer and with big investments to be made over the next twenty years in generating capacity and networks, what further steps, if any, should the Government take to develop our market framework for delivering reliable energy supplies?

In particular, we invite views on the implications of increased dependence on gas imports.

* The Energy White Paper left open the option of nuclear new build.

Are there particular considerations that should apply to nuclear as the Government reexamines the issues bearing on new build, including long-term liabilities and waste management? If so, what are these, and how should the Government address them?

* Are there particular considerations that should apply to carbon abatement and other low-carbon technologies?

* What further steps should be taken towards meeting the Government's goals for ensuring that every home is adequately and affordably heated?

Comments are also invited on:

* The long-term potential of energy efficiency measures in the transport, residential, business and public sectors, and how best to achieve that potential.

* Implications in the medium and long term for the transmission and distribution networks of significant new build in gas and electricity generation infrastructure.

* Opportunities for more joint working with other countries on our energy policy goals.

* Potential measures to help bring forward technologies to replace fossil fuels in transport and heat generation in the medium and long term.

Note

A consultation document is published at www.dti.gov.uk/energy/review. Anyone wishing to make a contribution to the Review can do so online or in writing to Energy Review Team, DTI, 1 Victoria Street, London SW1H 0ET or EnergyReviewConsultation@dti.gsi.gov.uk.

The closing date for submissions is 14 April.

Department of Trade and Industry

7th Floor

1 Victoria Street

London SW1H 0ET

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