I doubt many of us in this institution will be surprised by this story in the Independent today
"Consumers to pay 'dirty' coal power subsidies for years"
"Britain's dirtiest coal power stations are to be allowed to bid for hundreds of millions of pounds' worth of subsidies that could allow them to stay open well into the 2020s. Senior ministers are so worried about the possibility that the UK could suffer electricity blackouts over the next few years they have agreed to let Britain's coal stations bid for "capacity payment" handouts - paid for through people's energy bills - which could allow them to upgrade their facilities. If successful, the money would help make coal generation economic well into the 2020s - but significantly reduce the UK's ability to cut its carbon emissions."
So now under the new Electricity Market Reforms, all modes of electricity generation will be subsidised. This is quite an achievement, even for civil servants with a post graduate knowledge of free market economics, and the ways it may be subverted.
I personally predict that some coal stations will have to be running in the UK well into the 2030's. Its not really a prediction its a sort of inevitability given current engineering knowledge and economic circumstance.
If we start a molten salt nuclear engineering programme now, we might have available to us cost effective and flexible sources of low carbon energy that can start to replace coal and gas electricity generation from the mid-2030's onwards.
As I have said many times before, the government is attempting to force the pace of energy investment quicker than cost-effective engineering innovation can deliver, and to do this by blindly shovelling vast sums of public money into the bank accounts of the big six with little or no long term return for the UK public.
Coal is a 20 year stop-gap in the UK, gas electricity generation is a 40 year stop gap, 3rd generation nuclear is a 40 year stop gap, current off-shore wind technologies are a 10 year stop gap until more cost-effective innovations arrive.
We are left with hydro which is very limited in supply, tidal and solar. Solar is not going to supply a significant proportion of UK demand unless we transmit the energy up from the North African desert as well as store it in heated molten salts for night time use as well.
At the next general election we will either need a different set of leading politicians to the ones we have now or the current politicians will have to start now to change their whole approach to the energy problem.
I note in saying this, that not only did Miliband originally help give birth to the current subsidy ridden and lobby corrupted Electricity Market Reform agenda, he is now a willing and enthusiastic co-conspirator in helping Cameron and Clegg roll it out.
Our most senior politicians have failed us in regards to a convincing and well thought out long term Energy Policy for the UK and as yet we have no convincing political narrative as to how we can change course, or indeed if we will be offered something different at the next general election that can start to unpick the damage already done.