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Coalition to clash on dash for gas

The equivalent of 30 new gas power stations are being planned for the UK, including Scotland, in a bid to keep future energy bills down for consumers.

Chancellor George Osborne will set himself on a collision course with greens and Liberal Democrat colleagues tomorrow when he announces the Government wants a big increase in gas-power capacity to ease financial strains for consumers.

Mr Osborne is determined to ensure that, while renewables form part of Britain's energy mix, consumers can benefit from lower energy bills if gas stays relatively cheap in future years.

Last month there was an outcry when the Energy Bill made clear power companies would be allowed to raise bills by an estimated £110 a year by 2020 to produce low-carbon energy.

The UK Government's Gas Strategy will be published later this week and will speak of the need for a "diverse generation mix". It will add: "The Government expects gas will continue to play a major role in our electricity mix over the coming decades, alongside low-carbon technologies as we decarbonise our electricity system."

Whitehall sources told the Herald the Coalition would expect up to 30 new gas power stations to be built, but the figure will not appear in the Chancellor's Autumn Statement.

They recognised the Scottish Government, as planning authority, might not give consent for new gas plants north of the Border. The SNP Government wants all Scotland's electricity to come from renewables by 2020.

The Coalition's Gas Strategy will emphasise the need for extra investment, including up to 26 gigawatts of capacity. This could require as many as 30 new power stations to be built, although some will replace older plants.

The Chancellor's statement tomorrow will confirm to many that he is winning the battle within the Coalition to downgrade green energy in favour of the so-called "dash for gas". The Government split on energy was recently laid bare when Conservative Energy Minister John Hayes declared "enough is enough" over onshore windfarms, only to be slapped down by Ed Davey, the LibDem Energy Secretary.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "We recognise the strategy is an attempt by the UK Government to deliver an adequate level of overall generation capacity. It includes a significant role for gas to ensure security of supply and an affordable energy mix as we move in to a low-carbon economy and we want to include significant exports of generation from Scotland.We maintain our planning and consenting powers."

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