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New renewables plans to spark 'dash for gas'

MPs have warned that new Government rules to speed up the planning procedures for wind farms and power plants could spark a “dash for gas”.

Ministers believe £200bn of new investment is required in energy infrastructure by 2020 to manage rising demand, meet renewable targets and combat climate change.

But some are concerned that it will be difficult to make the multibillion-pound investment a reality to keep the lights on and build sustainable energy infrastructure.

MPs also warn that the protection of landscapes and areas of outstanding natural beauty had been reduced under the new rules when they should have been strengthened instead.

They said it was important to limit the visual impact of new energy builds on the countryside as much as possible.

The coalition has revised six national policy statements (NPSs) on energy, first published by the previous government, which aim to improve the planning process, setting out national policy on energy infrastructure and providing long-term certainty to investors.

The report by the committee of MPs warned that the statements contain little indication of which types of energy infrastructure are required.

As a result, they fear another “dash for gas”, similar to that seen in the 1990s, as companies opt for the quickest and cheapest option.

While gas has a role to play in the UK’s energy mix, the MPs raised concerns that a reliance on the fossil fuel would prevent investment in renewables.

That could mean the UK misses its targets to source 15% of all energy from renewables by 2020 and to slash greenhouse gas emissions in the coming decades.

“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,” said ICE director general Tom Foulkes.

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

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