Environment: Britain struggles to meet emission cuts as demand for electricity surges

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The Independent Online
Up to 12 million extra tons of carbon will be emitted into the atmosphere by British householders between 1995 and 2000 as they take advantage of cheaper energy, a report for the Government has confirmed.

It says greater consumer choice brought about by privatisation will mean an 11 per cent increase in demand for electricity and a 5 per cent increase in demand for gas.

Extra electricity use will pump between four and 10 million tons into the atmosphere in the five-year period, according to Oxford Economic Research Associates (Oxera), depending on how much of the demand is met by coal- fired power stations.

The increase in demand for gas will add a further million tons of carbon. The government has already admitted in a written parliamentary answer that another million tons of carbon will be emitted because of the cut in VAT on fuel to 5 per cent.

The report says domestic gas and electricity prices will fall overall by about 22 per cent between 1995 and 2000. Although it was completed in August, ministers only agreed to publish it last week in response to parliamentary questions from the Labour MP Alan Simpson.

In another development which will affect Britain's ability to meet the pledges it makes at Kyoto, it has emerged that the Energy-Saving Trust, which channels money from the Government and the electricity industry into energy-saving schemes, is to have its budget halved.

Staff at the trust are expecting to hear this month whether the cut planned by the Conservative government, will be implemented.

The trust channels funds to a wide variety of schemes including cheap, energy-efficient fridges for low-income families and help in buying high- efficiency boilers, insulation and thermostats.

Andrew Warren, director of the Association for the Conservation of Energy, said Britain's commitments to cut pollution would be hard to meet. "If the government believes it is proper to have falling fuel prices for social reasons you have to take counter-cyclical measures."

Angela Eagle, environment minister, said there would be a consultation on energy consumption after Kyoto. "The ... report will be taken into account in the government's consideration of future regulation of the energy industry and of the achievement of energy efficiency climate change targets."