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Energy plans will 'reduce UK's reliance on fossil fuels'

Moves to boost investment in renewable energy and nuclear power stations were set out by the coalition Government yesterday as it promised to reduce Britain's dependency on fossil fuels and cut carbon emissions.

Chris Huhne, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, pledged the "lights are not going to go out on my watch" as he announced 32 measures to make the country less reliant on imported oil and gas. He said the crisis in the Gulf of Mexico showed the importance of moving "further and faster" towards greater energy independence and a "low-carbon economy".

Making the first of planned annual energy statements to MPs, he said: "The central message is we are determined to speed up and accelerate the transition from a fossil fuel dependent economy to a low-carbon economy."

He promised to provide incentives to generate heat from renewable sources, speed up the connection of offshore windfarms to the national grid, bring in emissions performance standards for power plants and introduce smart meters more quickly.

The Liberal Democrat minister, whose party opposes nuclear power, also said obstacles hindering private companies from investing in nuclear plants would be removed.

The Government said moves to cut carbon emissions could lead to an 18 per cent increase in gas prices and a 33 per cent rise in electricity prices for domestic customers. However, increased energy production from renewable sources and energy-efficiency measures in homes would limit the overall increase in bills to one per cent over the next decade. Energy costs for businesses would rise by 26 per cent.

John Sauven, the Greenpeace executive director, said a high-technology, low-carbon future was "within our grasp" but would not be achieved without "massive public and private investment".