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LONDON â?? The British government on Wednesday called for the closing of all coal-fired power plants in the country by 2025, and proposed that use of the plants be restricted two years before that.
The move, announced in advance of the United Nations conference on climate change set to open in Paris on Nov. 30, appeared aimed at showing Britain as a leader in reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
The push came as the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, said in a report that the bloc would probably achieve its goal of reducing emissions by 20 percent by 2020, compared with levels that existed in 1990.
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The commission also forecast that by 2020, Europe would be able to increase to 20 percent from roughly 12 percent the share of energy it consumes from renewable sources like the sun and wind. But the report cautioned that some countries, including Britain, â??need to assess whether their policies and tools are efficient and effectiveâ? in raising the use of renewable forms of energy.
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Analysts say the proposal to close coal-fired power stations could also put pressure on Britainâ??s electricity providers and on its electricity grid, which has recently shown signs of strain.
â??It cannot be satisfactory for an advanced economy like the U.K. to be relying on polluting, carbon-intensive 50-year-old coal-fired power stations,â? Amber Rudd, the minister for energy and climate change, said in a statement.
The government will publish its detailed proposals in the spring, she said. Britain would only close the coal plants if the government believed that a shift to other methods of creating energy could be achieved.
â??If we take this step,â? she said, â??we will be one of the first developed countries to deliver on a commitment to take coal off the system.â?
Since becoming Britainâ??s energy and climate change minister this year, Ms. Rudd has shaken up energy policy, cutting back subsidies for renewable forms of energy like wind and solar, arguing that these technologies needed to be more cost-effective.
Coal use in Britain is in decline as utilities close aging plants, but more than 20 percent of the countryâ??s electricity was still being generated from the fuel in the second quarter of this year. By comparison, just over 30 percent of British electricity came from natural gas, 25.3 percent from renewables and 21.5 percent from nuclear plants.
Analysts say that most British coal plants are likely to be shut by the mid-2020s anyway, but they add that forcing the closing of all coal plants within a decade could be too hasty. Earlier, Britain announced plans to build new nuclear plants, but the first is not scheduled to begin operating until 2025. Utilities are also no longer investing in natural gas-fired power plants because of their expense.
â??This is a lot of posturing ahead of Paris,â? said Deepa Venkateswaran, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein in London, referring to the climate conference. â??Given that new nuclear is delayed, no one is building new gas,â? and the urgency to get rid of the rest of Britainâ??s coal plants â??appears premature,â? she said.
Utility executives say that coal remains a reliable, flexible source of power at a time when the electric grid is moving toward greater reliance on sources like wind and solar, which at present are much less reliable than coal. The contributions from wind and