Home Business Ministers to block plans to ban new coal mines

Ministers to block plans to ban new coal mines

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The government is planning to remove a ban on opening new coal mines from a bill that is going through Parliament.
The ban was added to the Energy Bill by peers in the House of Lords.
Ministers also plan to drop changes to the bill which would have enabled small community energy projects to sell electricity directly to local homes.
Green MP Caroline Lucas called the decision "reckless" and said the amendments should be reinstated "immediately".
A government spokesperson said it was made after "careful consideration" and they would continue to engage with parliamentarians.
The amendment to ban the opening of new coal mines was approved by the House of Lords in April by a majority of just three with 197 peers voting in favour of the motion and 194 against.
Introducing his amendment Liberal Democrat Lord Teverson said he had previously believed a ban was not necessary because it was "totally and absolutely obvious" that building a new coal mine "would be a really stupid thing for a country to do".
However, he told peers he had changed his mind after the government's decision to allow a new mine to be built in Whitehaven, Cumbria.
"If that happens once, it can happen again – that is why this amendment is so important," he said.
Opposing the amendment, minister Lord Callanan said the government was committed to phasing out coal but argued that an outright ban could cause a "severe weakening of our security of supply".
Shadow energy secretary Ed Miliband had said Labour would back the ban, but the government plans to remove the amendment from the bill at committee stage, where a bill is examined in detail, before it reaches a vote of the whole House of Commons.
The government also intends to ditch measures put in by the House of Lords which would enable small community energy projects to sell electricity directly to local consumers.
For example, a group which has installed solar panels on a school roof would be able to sell electricity directly to neighbouring homes.
Currently, projects tend to sell their energy to other, larger utilities because the cost and burdens of setting up as a supplier in their own right are too high.
More than 60 organisations – including the National Grid and the Church of England – have written to Energy Secretary Grant Shapps urging him to reconsider.
In the letter, the organisations say community energy schemes have seen "almost no growth for six years, despite renewable technologies being cheaper than ever".
They say this is "largely due to the prohibitive costs they face in accessing local markets" and suggest the current rules are holding back the possibility of a big expansion in community schemes.
The government may also be heading for a run-in with some of its own backbenchers.
More than 120 Conservative MPs had previously pledged to support a private members' bill, which had the exact same wording as the clauses added in the House of Lords.
Speaking in a debate about the bill in May, Conservative MP for North Devon Selaine Saxby spoke in favour of community schemes, telling MPs: "It is still bewildering to me, as someone who lives somewhere sunny, windy and with a huge tide, why this has not progressed sooner."
Responding to the debate Energy Minister Andrew Bowie said he agreed community energy schemes had "a role to play in tackling climate change" and that the department was looking into what further support could be given to the sector.
Green MP Ms Lucas said the government's approach was "well and truly stuck in the last century".
She said that "after endlessly repeating the importance of no new coal at COP26, its words have proved to be meaningless – and when hundreds of MPs from across the House have thrown their weight behind innovative community energy schemes to generate clean electricity at low cost, ministers rip them to shreds and offer up no alternative".
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