TURNING back on a long-term rejection of new nuclear power plants, the Liberal Democrats confirmed yesterday that they will now back the new generation of infrastructure.
The party’s annual conference in Glasgow voted in favour of a limited support of nuclear energy for the first time yesterday.
The Lib Dems have historically rejected another tranche of nuclear power stations. In its manifesto for the last general election, the party referred to the technology as “a far more expensive way of reducing carbon emissions than promoting energy conservation and renewable energy”.
Party members also backed a limited amendment in support of fracking for shale gas, with conditions for stringent regulation and financial benefits to local communities.
Energy and climate change secretary Ed Davey spoke in favour of the changes to the party’s policies, calling nuclear energy “a genuinely low carbon source of electricity”.
On fracking, Davey said: “Unless and until we get carbon capture and storage commercially viable, coal has no future. That’s why I don’t believe shale gas is the environmental threat some fear. Cleaner gas will be essential for keeping the lights on, as we replace dirty coal.”
The Lib Dems also claimed that the new policy deals with high energy prices, encouraging collective switching at a local level, as well as areas pooling their buying power to keep costs down.
The energy secretary added: “I’ve had to help people struggling with astronomical bills. I’m sure you’ve seen people in your area genuinely frightened about using too much electricity or gas. That’s why I’m so determined to act on fuel poverty.”
An earlier poll of party members on the LibDemVoice supporters website confirmed that a majority of Lib Dems backed the use of nuclear power, with 65 per cent in favour and 29 per cent against. In comparison, fracking registered 46 per cent approval, with 36 per cent opposed.