The Government's Green Paper on Energy, due to be published this week, was previewed at a Cabinet meeting last Thursday. Key topics covered include security of supply and compliance with the country's obligations regarding climate change.
Secretary of State for Industry, Alistair Darling, claims that a mixed response is what is needed to the energy challenges facing the UK. He considers that this is what the Green Paper delivers, with a combination of policies set to promote development of both renewable and nuclear energy, and encourage energy efficiency.
The Government and the Conservative Party appear to have reached agreement on the main issues. Both are in favour of permitting increased nuclear power, although both agree that any such development should not be subsidised. The Liberal Democrats, on the other hand, are opposed to any further nuclear power plants, and consider that they would require large-scale subsidiation.
One important proposal contained in the Green Paper involves an overhaul to the planning regime, designed to make it easier for nuclear, or renewable, developments to gain planning permission. Controversially, the Paper proposes powers to allow the Government to force Local Authorities to accept new nuclear power stations in their area, where they are considered essential.
Energy is a matter reserved to Westminster, however, land use planning is devolved to the Scottish Parliament. This means that Scotland would be able to prevent any new nuclear plants, although existing stations such as Torness could have their use extended by Westminster.