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Build more nuclear plants to reach green goals, government told

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Construction work using heavy plant machinery at the EDF Energy Hinkley Point C nuclear power station in Somerset. Photo: Ben Birchall/PA Images via Getty Images

The government should commission new nuclear power plants and invest in carbon capture technology to hit its ambitious target of net zero carbon by 2050, a leading business group has said.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) on Friday wrote a letter to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) urging the government to invest more in green energy infrastructure.

Earlier this month the government announced a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emission to net zero by 2050 in a bid to tackle climate change. Britain is the first major country to propose such a target.

CBI director general Carolyn Fairbairn warned in Friday’s letter that such an ambitious plan would require “coordinated action across government departments and regulators.”

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The CBI urged the government to commission new nuclear power stations, trial carbon-reducing technology, introduce incentives for consumers and businesses to buy electric vehicles, and reform the tax system to reward businesses for going green.

“To deliver the Government’s admirable net-zero policy by 2050, it is mission critical that business, politicians and the public work together to devise and make the necessary changes,” Rain Newton-Smith, the CBI’s Chief Economist, said.

“Firms want to see a whole host of stable, long-term policies enacted – from building new nuclear power stations to scaling-up carbon capture and storage technology and infrastructure – that send markets a robust signal: the UK is open for green business, and is a world leader in tackling climate change.”

Building new power stations is easier said than done. The government announced plans for a new generation of plants in 2010 but the project has struggled to get off the ground. Plans for a new plant in Cumbria were scrapped last year after Toshiba pulled out of the project and Hitachi also scrapped plans for a £16bn plant in Wales after failing to reach a deal with the government.

Hinkley Point C, the only one of the new generation currently under construction, has been hit by repeated delays and spiralling costs. MPs have also criticised the government for negotiating a bad deal for consumers on energy prices once the facility is complete.

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Oscar Williams-Grut covers banking, fintech, and finance for Yahoo Finance UK. Follow him on Twitter at @OscarWGrut.

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