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Britain must move away from coal power stations: minister

[LONDON] Britain must move away from dirty and aging coal-fired power stations and encourage new gas and nuclear power plants, its energy minister will say on Wednesday when unveiling a new direction for energy policy in the country.

"It cannot be satisfactory for an advanced economy like the UK to be relying on polluting, carbon intensive 50-year-old coal-fired power stations," Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Amber Rudd will say, according to embargoed excerpts of the speech she will deliver at the Institution of Civil Engineers.

Coal-fired power plants provided around one third of Britain's electricity last year but many of its aging plants have been due to close over the next decade due to tightening European Union environmental standards and as weak electricity prices make them uneconomical.

Britain hopes to bridge the supply gap with new lower-carbon gas and nuclear power plants which will also help it to meet a legally binding target to cut its carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 to 80 per cent below 1990 levels.

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"One of the greatest and most cost-effective contributions we can make to emission reductions in electricity is by replacing coal fired power stations with gas," Ms Rudd will say.

Gas plants emit almost half the amount of carbon dioxide per megawatt produced as coal plants.

European utilities have struggled to invest in new plants across the bloc and are instead having to make savings and look for new ways to drive profits as their decades-old model of centralised, predictable energy production and consumption comes up against falling power prices and reduced consumption.

Ms Rudd said new gas and nuclear plants will be vital to secure Britain's electricity supplies in the future.

It is unclear whether she will on Wednesday launch any new policies to incentivise companies to build plants.