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Climate change and the nuclear securitisation of UK energy policy

By David Toke, Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Aberdeen,
School of Social Science, Edward Wright Building, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen AB24


This paper examines the relationship between energy security, neoliberalism and climate change in the
development of UK energy policy from 2003 to 2011, with a particular focus on nuclear power. A
‘securitisation’ discourse has been associated with the promotion of nuclear interests, although the Government
policy storylines have been associated as much with changing party political priorities as with justifying
instrumental policy objectives. However, the extent to which neoliberal electricity arrangements will be
overridden in the wake of the securitising agenda is uncertain, due to the embedded nature of neoliberal

Keywords: climate change, nuclear power, energy security, securitisation, neoliberalism

In July 2011 the UK Government published its long-awaited White Paper on Electricity
Market Reform (DECC 2011a). According to the secretary of State for Energy, Chris Huhne,
‘These reforms will yield the biggest transformation of the market since privatisation,
securing our future electricity supplies and heralding the shift toward a low-carbon economy’
(DECC 2011a, 4). The policy led on from a move, initiated by the Blair Government five
years earlier, to develop a programme of new nuclear power stations. This paper analyses
these policy developments as involving ‘securitisation’ of energy policy, and intervention in
the market against the grain of a British energy system previously dominated by a neoliberal
competitive discourse.

The study of this topic is important for at least two reasons. First, because of the empirical
importance of the issue in environmental political studies. Second, is the theoretical issue of
the interaction of securitisation and neoliberalism. There has been considerable analysis of
neoliberalism (Harvey 2005) and also of ‘securitisation’ (Buzan et al 1998). However, less
work has been done on the interaction of these two trends. Both are powerful forces, but what
is the outcome when they interact? This is the key research question studied here. One case
study will not generate an all-purpose generalisation, but it could generate a hypothesis that
could be used as a basis for study of other cases involving interacting of securitisation and

Neoliberalism, as will be discussed, is a dominant mode of economic thinking that places a
primacy on promoting competitive economic arrangements, whereas securitisation is a
process where policy measures are taken which override ‘business as usual’ conditions, in
defence of the state or nation itself. This account will begin by describing the nature of neo-
liberalism. Then there will be a discussion of the nature of securitisation and its relationship
with interest. The methods will then be outlined, focussing on use of analysis of storylines
and its relationship with the politics of interests. This will be followed by the analysis of UK
energy policy as a case study. The analysis will begin in the period before the Labour
Government signalled a priority for development of new nuclear power stations and end with
the publication of the Electricity Market Reform White Paper.


the rationale for which was that this would lower costs for the electricity consumer. while Anglo-Saxon versions involve the creation of artificial markets that appear to favour large electricity companies (Toke and Lauber 2007). This type of decision making. and free trade. The ground rules for market competition must be properly observed. Electricity generators. Thomas (2006b) has argued that the problem of assuring security of supply was leading to market liberalisation being abandoned in all but name around the world. This is that neoliberalism should not be discussed merely as a discourse. Trading in renewable energy certificates was established with the aim of delivering the renewable energy whereby the market decides what renewable energy is supplied at what price. a situation where not only was a threat to ‘security’ used to justify new types of Government intervention. In situations where such rules are not clearly laid out or where property rights are hard to define.2 According to Harvey (2005: 2. In Britain. 65) neoliberalism involves ‘an institutional framework characterised by strong private property rights. this argument may have its limits since under liberalised arrangements embedded practices reduce the ability of particular Governments to implement their choices about technological outcomes. as well as electricity suppliers. aiming to generate first 10 per cent of electricity from renewables (and extended by 2003 towards an ‘aspiration’ for 20 per cent). This situation generated. Thrift 1999: 277-278). as may be indicated in this case study. of course. but also as involving non-discursive practices which arise in association with the discourse. it was done in ways which at least kept up the appearance of market competition. Hence when the UK privatised the British electricity system at the end of 1980s it established a set of rules to define and organise competition. with some favouring state action in support of allowing greater competitive possibilities for small and independent companies. Yet. . This emphasises an important point. Rule changes were agreed by the Regulator in conversation with a network of stakeholders. Analytical attention therefore has to be given to these non-discursive practices. when the Labour Government in the UK opted to introduce a major renewable energy programme. free markets. Under neoliberalism special markets are established in order to pursue non-market objectives such as renewable energy development. Certainly. the state must use its power to impose or invent market systems…’ There is widespread agreement that under neoliberalism the state has to take up an organising role in defining the nature of the markets. were expected to raise finance for investments from private markets. the liberalised arrangements appeared to deliver low energy prices for the consumer until around 2004. In Germany. The role of the state is to create and preserve an institutional framework appropriate to such practice……… Competition…is held to be a primary virtue. involving decisions being delegated to markets and non-government networks has been characterised as the ‘hollowed out state’ (Rhodes 2007). as will be discussed. Different versions of neoliberalism exist. on the other hand. but that intervention was introduced with an aim of constructing nuclear power stations. sometimes with alarming volatility. The Regulator set standards for electricity distribution which remained a natural monopoly. something that differentiates neoliberalism from laissez faire (Barry et al 1996: 10. when energy prices began to increase. ‘feed-in tariff’ prices to be paid to renewable energy generators were set by the Government.

(Ciuta 2010. Similarly. Arguably. In this sense energy policy has become ‘securitised’ in that at least some aspects of the very existence of Britain or its survival could be under threat. but it is also held to be a theoretical framework for analysis of securitisation as a process which does not necessarily involve making normative judgements (Taurek 2006). This ‘securitisation’ is familiar in other areas of policy: ‘If by means of an argument about the priority and urgency of an existential threat the securitizing actor has managed to break free of procedures or rules he or she would otherwise be bound by.3 Securitisation As will be discussed. even the need to reduce carbon emissions (Hendry 2012). It is thus possible to talk about securitisation. the same could be said for neoliberalism. neoliberalism and securitisation. There has been much less focus on studying how energy security appears as a discourse or discourses and achieves policy hegemony. Hitherto. It has been associated with policies that constrain the neo-liberal approach to electricity policy and is closely associated with efforts to steer UK policy to encourage the construction of a new generation of nuclear power stations. too much imported natural gas. as in the case of neoliberalism. we need to make a careful analytical distinction since securitisation may be seen as a normatively laden discourse applied to a specific situation. they are principally oriented towards either measuring it or discussing the ‘essence’ of energy security (Stirling 1993. The objective of having secure energy has always been an axiom of British policy. If market failure is the key problem for energy security. volatile energy prices. Perhaps we can talk of a struggle between two powerful trends. Securitisation. as appears in the later analysis. sometimes ‘banal’. that is it is deployed as a normatively laden discourse but also it can be used as a framework of theoretical analysis. for example. securitising actors may also be interested in instituting new rules. but it has been perceived (by the Government) as being actively threatened since around 2005 with potentially damaging consequences for the British state. In fact energy is problematic for securitisation theory. then the solution is the application of generic policies designed to improve market functionality. energy policy in the UK became securitised in so far as new policies (particularly a new emphasis on nuclear power) were supported on the basis of increasing threats to the UK. this may involve new rules to make nuclear storage safe or to reduce the likelihood of nuclear accidents. though there have been many discussions about energy security. then energy security policy is not about energy but about terrorism. therefore could seem an apt way to analyse the politics of how the neo-liberal electricity strategy has been countermanded. being seen as a discourse. Löschel et al 2010a and 2010b. ‘security’ issues became an increasingly important part of the energy policy discourse in the UK as the first decade of the 21st century wore on. ‘No easy fit can be found between energy and existing security theories’ says Ciuta (2010. 134) In the UK Government’s discourses on energy policy the meaning of energy security varies to include a lack of generating capacity. Stirling 1994. Its application comes in many different shapes and sizes. [E]nergy security policies remain non-specific as security policies. 1998. Bradshaw 2010). we are witnessing a case of securitization’ (Buzan et al. Chalvatzis and Hooper (2009). 25) In addition to ‘breaking free’ of rules. if terrorist attacks against energy infrastructure are the problem. In this case. The dangers are described as increasing reliance . Awerbuch and Berger (2003). 139). Nevertheless. However.

These states may be subject to similar needs for new capacity and even more acute problems of natural gas supply (as the UK) but the majority are not providing incentives for new nuclear power stations. the struggle is not just between ‘securitisation’ and ‘de-securitisation’. have characterised the allegedly dangerous nature of nuclear power itself as a threat to security. while in the UK Government storylines see at as part of a solution to energy security problems. This type of discourse analysis looks at how storylines emerge and influence policy. Particular points of study are the storylines themselves. A lesson flowing from this study is that. Method – Discourse and interests This analysis links the theory and method by analysing text. which can include concepts such as environmental security and security from poverty and disease (Detraz and Betsill 2009. usually environmental groups. 76) In this study. The storylines are linked to interest groups. Hajer (1995) articulated an especially influential type of discourse analysis in environmental policy using the notion of ‘storylines’. something that becomes more apparent when comparisons with European continental countries are made. ‘Why then. expanded that is beyond the normal confines of state and military security. We can see elements of this in this study as some interests. to encompass notions of ‘human’ security. Indeed Germany is doing precisely the opposite given its commitment to phase out nuclear power. Groups like Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace attack nuclear power for its alleged threats to security through vulnerability to terrorist attacks and the dangers of nuclear accidents. and benefits from. In Germany nuclear power is seen as being a threat to security. 53-54). Both the definition and consequences of energy securitisation are subject to different interpretations. there is also a battle for hegemony of different conceptions of securitisation.4 on imported natural gas and rising prices (Department of Trade and Industry 2006. the securitisation of energy policy. Other authors have talked about expanded versions of security. as well as storylines. ‘Storylines frame issues by arguing how they should be understood and tackled: they represent intentional mobilisations of discourse’ (Smith and Kern 2009. 79). Key associations between different signifiers are identified. Securitisation theory itself is criticised for being too focused on discourse and textual analysis. Floyd 2010). in contrast to other accounts of securitisation. 2008. Pro-nuclear interests emphasise nuclear’s role in helping protect energy security through helping to avoid blackouts and reducing imports of natural gas. and more importantly why was that actor supported in that securitization by a particular constituency?’ (Mcdonald 2008. did a particular actor represent an issue as an existential threat. Dodds and Pippard 2005). and in that context. underlying which are fears that one day we could be reliant on gas from unstable Middle Eastern countries or Russia opening the door even to political blackmail (Chatham House Commission 2008.4). nuclear power is an interest which is associated with. These associations and storylines are analysed for changes. On other occasions threats to the ability of the country to ‘keep the lights on’ implies also a looming threat to the physical well-being of the country if basic services collapse (DECC 2011a: 60). Floyd (2010) applies securitisation theory specifically to environmental issues (which centrally concerns this study) and stresses analysis of the interests of the actors who attempt to securitise an issue. actors and coalitions of actors who mobilise under the . Others signal the importance of looking at context and the interests involved that have attempted to utilise discourses of securitisation to their advantage (McDonald 2003.

perceptions of self interest also shape dominant governmental discourses on energy. explanation is aided by studying the relationship of the changing storylines to the interests of nuclear power and the changing interests of Government. Government’s perceived interests have changed according to changing balances between pro. A key method of research has been discourse analysis of Government policy statements as expressed through White Papers. ‘Bringing interests back in. Some analysts see discourses as competing with each other (Dryzek 1997). 319). It establishes a storyline of intervening to establish a ‘decarbonisation’ strategy. so it may be a useful short cut to assume that interests exist for the purposes. with consequential shifts in discourse. climate change and nuclear power. nuclear power is not linked to energy security and climate change between 2003 and 2005. neoliberalism for example. in practice hegemonic discourses emerge and change by incorporating elements from different discourses in order to retain hegemony (Foucault 1998. Pro-nuclear interests have promoted nuclear power by linking it to both energy security and climate change and attempting to secure commitments from Government to underpin such discourses with commitments to greater financial incentives being made available to the nuclear industry (Helm 2007). In the third phase. the Government evolves a perceived interest of balancing market intervention with manifesto commitments not to subsidise nuclear power. Hajer (1995) argued that discourses rather than interest should be the central point of analysis of environmental policy outcomes in his notion of discourse coalitions. 840)’. as means of incorporating different interests as well as conditioning the interests themselves. Gradually. However. may influence perception of actor self-interest. This study assumes that though dominant discourses. the balance has tilted towards nuclear interests. and exploring their interaction with ideas. Szarka argues that analysis of interests can help understand how discourses change and have effects. The empirical section discusses changing Government policy storylines and also changing discursive relationships between key signifiers such as competitive markets. of the storylines (discourse coalitions). Key interests include not only energy interests but also party political interests. . Then in a second phase from 2005. and of course. according to the parties in power. The analysis has been aided by use of ‘nvivo’ software which has helped to categorise statements and quantify changing associations of use of language. and the institutions who can build the influence. Certainly. perhaps dominance. In the analysis of the storylines. there may not be sufficient resources to examine the multitude of discourses in which interests are involved.5 umbrella of such storylines. In particular there has been analysis of associations between energy interests. Key non-discursive elements. as Foucault observed. regardless of the analyst’s ontological leanings (Schmidt 2008. 100-101). from 2010. However. nuclear power is linked to energy security and climate change as the Government gives a rhetorical justification for nuclear power without significantly compromising the neo-liberal attachment to competitive markets. In this study there is also analysis of dominant storylines. as expressed in Government policy texts. security. in the three phases discussed above. that is offering subsidies to low carbon sources in general rather than being seen to offer specific subsidies to nuclear power. can improve the understanding of causation at the coalition and the subsystem levels (Szarka 2010. are also analysed. such as changes in conditions for making investments in energy generation.and sceptical or anti-nuclear lobbies. In this case study.

This neoliberalising process benefited the construction of a large amount of gas powered electricity generating plant called combined cycle gas turbines (CCGTs) which. as far as is possible. 6). The perceived interests of the Governments (Labour and Coalition) include attempting to reconcile sectoral policy objectives (e. The 2003-2011 period has been selected in order to capture the period immediately before ‘securitising’ influences have appeared to take serious effect. Privatisation and nuclear decline Three distinct phases of energy policy can be seen in analysis of the White Paper policy documents. 2010 election) manifesto objectives. in the case of decisions about electricity market rules. and Parliamentary statements. The context to these phases needs to be traced back to the privatisation of the gas industry in 1987 and then the electricity industry in 1990. Indeed. were adjudged to be cheaper options compared to coal and nuclear power. 2008 and 2011.6 energy security. a second phase from 2005 when the Government promoted new nuclear build but with limited interventionist means to achieve this. with capacity payments also available. Although a number of policy statements have been produced by the Government over these years. wholesale electricity market trading operated through a ‘pool price’ system where generators made bids to generate power to a system operator.g. Interviews with relevant actors.g. one. but given that electricity policy has been the most controversial and the one that directly affects nuclear power. in 2003. This analysis has been supplemented by analysis of stakeholder submissions to White paper consultations. under the new liberalised arrangements. 30/10/2010). Newbery 2010. and then up to the time of writing. one of whom (Liberal Democrats) had an election manifesto commitment opposing new nuclear power stations. and then from 2010 when the Government set out new incentive structures to promote nuclear construction. former or serving politicians or civil servants/administrators and NGO representatives have also been utilised. in energy) with broader neoliberal narratives. In practice. in keeping with the theory of neoliberalism and the ‘hollowed out state’ (Rhodes 2007) decisions were devolved either directly to the markets or. climate change and promotion of competitive markets. There is no guarantee that the large capital costs will be . the pool price and capacity payments system was abolished in favour of a decentralised system of ‘bilateral trading’. nuclear power is seen as a risky option (Thomas 2006a: 590-591. in 2001 under the ‘New Electricity Trading Arrangements’ (NETA). which meant that in a liberalised market where the electricity companies cannot be guaranteed to recover the costs from electricity consumers. These can be complex in the case of the Coalition which involves two parties. e. relevant Select Committees Reports. the need to use resources effectively and also the need to focus on the most comprehensive statements of Government policy has led to a focus on final versions of five major Energy White Papers. its policies with its (e. The 2011 White Paper addressed the subject of ‘electricity market reform’. is to utilise analysis of texts in the White Papers to look at changes in storylines and associations between different words and phrases. Then. including the 2003 White Paper when there was no Government policy to promote new nuclear build. however. These privatisations were also accompanied by market liberalisation and competition in the gas and electricity generation and retail sectors. Government also has to attempt to reconcile. there has been little trading outside of the vertically integrated six major electricity companies. including the need for market based solutions. 2006.g. to a network consisting of the Electricity Regulator and the main stakeholders (Littlechild. The modus operandi. following on from the discussion above. The difficulty about nuclear power is that the main cost is in capital. this has been included in the list. Initially. whilst noting its more focused nature compared to the three Energy White Papers which it succeeds.

with Patricia Hewitt. Nuclear power is currently an important source of carbon-free electricity. Indeed electricity wholesale prices fell so much that in 2002 British Energy. In fact. but then three of these reactors were cancelled during the privatisation process after the newly privatised electricity generators indicated they would not fund them. by the time of the new century pressures from the nuclear industry were pointing out that the nuclear fleet was ageing and concern was raised about the rising use of natural gas in the UK compared to UK gas supplies. Analysis of the 2003 Energy White Paper (EWP) reveals that there was a great emphasis on promotion of. Meanwhile renewable energy was now the subject of ambitious targets for expansion under the Renewables Obligation (RO). 17/12/2010). but concluded that there was no case for subsidising a new programme of nuclear construction (Department of Trade and Industry 1995). something that did not exist for nuclear power. In . neo-liberal language prevailed: because a well-designed. which started operating in 2003 with an obligation on electricity suppliers to procure 10 per cent of electricity from renewables by 2010. 17/12/2010). However. Although the Thatcher Conservative Government had a programme of building at least 4 nuclear power stations under the nationalised Central Electricity Generating Board. or positive attitudes towards. electricity prices fell throughout the 1990s and into the new century. (Department of Trade and Industry 2003. its current economics make it an unattractive option for new. However. we will wherever possible use market instruments to achieve our goals. The RO offered guarantees of a long term market for renewable electricity. The Government reviewed policy on nuclear energy in 1995. had to be saved from bankruptcy as the income from the nuclear power stations failed to exceed the power stations operating costs by a sufficient margin. This programme survived the impact of the Chernobyl accident in 1986. Renewable energy and energy efficiency were the methods that were being actively promoted and incentivised to achieve the Government’s climate change objectives. competitive energy markets with frequently repeated assertions in such directions. the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry herself among them (Roche. Certainly there were numerous sceptics within the cabinet. as can be seen in Table 1.7 profitably reclaimed by sufficiently high electricity prices. carbon-free generating capacity and there are also important issues of nuclear waste to be resolved. the (now also privatised) company that owned nuclear power stations. Yet the 2003 White Paper (Department of Trade and Industry 2003) contained the storyline here that it was unnecessary and uneconomic for the Government to actively promote the building of new nuclear power stations. 12) It has been argued that an alliance of nuclear-sceptical Scottish Labour MPs and ministers such as Michael Meacher and John Prescott helped to block efforts led by the pro-nuclear Energy Minister Brian Wilson for a commitment to build more nuclear power stations (Roche. A review of energy policy was carried out by the Labour Government with the role of nuclear power in mind. transparent and open energy market is the best way of achieving efficient outcomes. In the UK this decline in electricity prices may have been seen to vindicate the efficacy of the neoliberal discourse and the competitive practices introduced through the programme of privatisation of the energy industries. However oil prices continued to decline from their high points in the early 1980s throughout this period which is likely to have accounted for much of the decline in electricity and gas prices. When it came to pursuing environmental objectives.

The 2003 EWP advocated the ‘aspiration’ of extending the Renewables Obligation target to 20 per cent of UK electricity supply. after a brief fall. this coincided with a strong association with a continued emphasis on the importance of competitive markets. more efficient technology (Department of Trade and Industry 2006. neither renewable energy nor greater energy efficiency can provide the complete solution to the (energy) shortfall we face. something that was turned a requirement on electricity suppliers after the 2006 EWP. Alan Johnson replaced Patricia Hewitt as Secretary of State for Trade and Industry in May 2005. 4-5) As can be seen from the numbers of associations between nuclear power and energy security and climate change in Table 1 the discourse linked nuclear power to both energy security and climate change much more compared to the discourse in the 2003 White Paper. The need to replace ageing nuclear power and coal fired plant were cited as part of the justification for building new nuclear power stations. During this period energy issues became significant matters of concern among the British public (Eurobarometer 2008). Table 1 near here Blair proposes nuclear By 2005 energy prices were rising on the back of increases in global oil prices. and. in new nuclear power stations to replace those becoming obsolete and replacing older coal- fired stations with cleaner. as well as the challenge of increasing reliance on imported natural gas.8 particular. emissions trading will be at the centre of our energy markets from 2005 onwards (Department of Trade and Industry 2003: 16) The Renewables Obligation was established as an explicitly market based instrument where prices would be set by the market through competition rather than prices being set by Government (Department of Trade and Industry 2000).. whilst nuclear power was not seen as being helpful. The EWP did not see any immediate threats to energy security. However. Following the publication of the 2006 EWP the Government were successfully challenged in court by Greenpeace to the effect that the Government had not carried out a sufficiently full . This will depend on securing energy supplies from abroad. In November 2005 Tony Blair announced a new review of energy policy with the aim of revisiting the nuclear power option. stressing the need to ‘monitor’ the situation. Indeed according to the UK Government index of domestic gas prices rose from an index of 85 in 2003 to over 140 in early 2007. Tony Blair’s introduction to the resulting EWP (Department of Trade and Industry 2006) stated that: we now face two immense challenges as a country – energy security and climate change………………. Analysis of the number of positive and negative statements regarding renewable energy and nuclear power to climate change and energy security implies that renewable energy was seen as being positive to combating climate change and also in dealing with energy security. while the storyline changed to advocating new nuclear power stations. up to 175 in early 2009 (DECC 2011b). either to combat climate change or energy security (see Table 1). on balance.

This (much shorter) document shows. They accused the Labour Government of inaction over nuclear (Conservative Party 2010). again the support for nuclear power coincides with the intention that this will come about in the context of competitive markets. Both Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition partners had stated in their pre-election . Pressures for action on climate change rose up the agenda. The 2008 EWP said (merely) that ‘it would be in the public interest to allow energy companies the option of investing in new nuclear power stations’ (DBERR 2008. and there are no longer term contracts or obligations’ (Helm 2007. and the passage of. UK fossil fuels would be taxed according to their carbon content. climate change and energy security. again in Table 1. for instance. In 2008 it was decided to establish a feed-in tariff for renewable projects under 5 MW in size and a large offshore wind power programme was prepared. instituted an obligation to reduce 1990 UK carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. Electricity Market Reform Shortly before the 2010 election the Conservatives introduced a new policy document announcing a drive to ‘fast-track’ nuclear power stations. The Government did promote the enactment of new planning laws which were aimed to speed up processes for giving planning consent to large power stations such as nuclear power. 32). According to O’Brien. The Government then undertook another consultation in 2007 which paved the way for a White Paper on nuclear power in 2008 (DBERR 2008). The prospect of. a strengthened association between nuclear power. the 2009 EU Renewables Directive provided the background to increased commitments to support renewable energy. 7). Indeed. there remained some mixed signals within Labour. considerable. but no similar mechanism to support nuclear power. A keystone for the policy was the proposal to institute a floor price for carbon so that if the price of carbon under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme fell below a benchmark amount. the former Minister of State for Energy at the newly established department of Energy and Climate Change. As a result fossil fuel consumers would have to pay the equivalent of a floor price. However. passed in 2008. 13). There is as yet no permanent solution to the nuclear waste problem. and the Climate Change Act. The Labour Government did little for the rest of its term in office to respond to such criticisms.9 economic justification for new nuclear construction. there was an absence of significant new financial incentives to promote nuclear construction. However. ‘My view was that this (investment in nuclear power stations) was a business proposition for (electricity) companies and if they were going to do it either they were going to invest in wind turbines on a massive scale or they were going to do it in relation to nuclear’. there is no long-term price of carbon. 18). However. The point here was that there was a Renewables Obligation to support wind power. however. Nuclear advocates such as Helm (2007) complained that: ‘What remains to be done in the nuclear case is. despite Tony Blair’s strident advocacy of nuclear power. The UK renewable target was increased up to an ‘aspiration’ to achieve 30 per cent of electricity from renewables by 2020 (DECC 2009. a rider to the proposal was the statement that ‘we agree with the nuclear industry that taxpayer and consumer subsidies should not and will not be provided – in particular there must be no public underwriting of construction cost overruns’ (Conservative Party 2010.

rather as during the 2009 EU Renewables Directive the European Commission redefined feed-in tariffs as ‘market based instruments’ Lauber and Schenner (2011. for party political purposes. 8) ……. Yet the proposals the coalition published were perceived as doing precisely that (Select Committee on Energy and Climate Change 2011). The Conservatives insisted that there would be no public subsidy for nuclear power. and nuclear (DECC 2011a. In addition the White Paper set out a system of ‘capacity payments’ designed to ensure there was enough reserve power stations and other techniques available to quickly respond to peaks in demand. the only genuinely innovative major policy initiative in the 2011 White Paper was the proposed feed-in tariff for nuclear power (which. Indeed. 18). also. there is much less rhetorical linkage of nuclear power to energy security and climate change compared to the 2006 and 2007 White Papers. It was just that the (usually) utility opponents of this instrument denied feed-in tariffs ‘market’ status. The system of ‘feed-in tariffs’ (awarded through the ‘reliable contracts’) for nuclear power and renewables was to be integrated into the electricity market trading system through a ‘contracts for differences’ mechanism. resulting in voltage reductions and blackouts as capacity margins tighten from around the end of this decade. In fact however. Hence when the New Government proposed its ‘Electricity Market Reform’ (by consultation in December 2010 and the White Paper in July 2011) the storyline was now that both renewable and nuclear power had access to the same incentives.At the heart of our strategy is a framework that will offer reliable contracts.. gas and coal Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). 523). The White Paper argued that: Without action. and this ‘no subsidy’ pledge was incorporated in the Coalition agreement with the Liberal Democrats (with an agreement for Liberal Democrats to abstain on nuclear power). The proposals for capacity payments may not revolutionary since a system of capacity payments did exist in the 1990s before a reform of the liberalised arrangements. This market intervention was to be kept within a neoliberal ‘competitive’ discourse. Paradoxically. As can be seen in Table 1 there is much less positive association with ‘competitive markets’ compared to the three other White Papers analysed. So. we face a significantly increased risk of being unable to meet our energy needs. as part of a ‘decarbonisation’ strategy. nuclear power). administered through delivery arrangements that are trusted by investors…. may not actually engender much. Supporters of feed-in tariffs have always argued that they are ‘market based’. 60)…. (DECC 2011a. as discussed later. to play down the now significant financial incentives being given for new nuclear . nuclear (and renewable) investment could not be guaranteed through carbon floor price support since this does not constitute a legally enforceable contract guaranteeing a specified premium future price to be paid for the nuclear (or renewable) generation. the plan was to make such contracts available through a system of ‘feed-in tariffs’ available to all low carbon generators. This may be associated with a wish.10 manifestos that there would be no public subsidies given to nuclear power. (DECC 2011A. if any. that is the carbon price support. Certainly the feed-in tariffs may be little more than a more efficient version of an existing policy to promote renewable energy (the Renewables Obligation). A key attraction of the minimum carbon floor price formulation for nuclear advocates was that it would support nuclear power without subsidies allocated for this purpose.and that to meet our decarbonisation targets the majority of this new investment must be in a diverse range of low-carbon generation such as renewables.

General public opinion has been much more consistently favourable towards renewable energy compared to nuclear power. The problem for the Government was that uncertainties about nuclear construction costs. Although EU state aid rules do allow subsidies to be given for environmental purposes (including support for renewable energy) there is no similar exemption for nuclear power. only 25 per cent supported nuclear power if public subsidies were necessary (Tall 2010). the City’s assessment of plans for new nuclear power stations was pessimistic. However. share prices and bad reports from credit rating agencies. Normally banks provide the bulk of investments in large power plant projects on the basis that there is reasonable certainty about the costs of the projects. Macalister 2011). the fact that the energy system was privately owned. Indeed in a 2010 poll of around 600 Liberal Democrat members. had (prior to the General Election) been associated with a Party position that was strongly against building new nuclear power stations. meant that utilities (the major electricity companies) may be reluctant to invest in nuclear power without even stronger measures of support than were apparent in the White Paper. Hence there is an incentive for the Government to present Electricity Market Reform as involving no subsidies in the sense that the incentives are said to be available for all generators provided they are classified as ‘low carbon’. Chris Huhne. and even the existence of the planned nuclear power construction programme. and also the political problem of being perceived as favouring nuclear power more than renewables. given the risks that are attendant on building nuclear power plants (Chestney 2011. especially in the light of cost overruns on plants being built in Finland and France (Carrington 2011). Such admissions could weaken the support base for the nuclear programme. However banks are wary of lending to nuclear power plant because of the risks of delay and spiralling costs. the Select Committee on Energy and Climate Change published a report in May 2011 calling on the Government to ‘be upfront’ about its intention to give subsidies to nuclear power (Select Committee on Climate Change 2011). An additional issue that may have influenced the Government to construct the proposed incentive regime as not involving subsidies for nuclear power is EU state aid rules (Europa 2012). whilst 68 per cent said that nuclear power should be part of the energy mix. privately financed and that the main electricity utilities were still in competition (and thus could not guarantee selling their electricity) meant that there were still question marks over the extent. was achieved through administrative fiat. with a 2010 academic survey recording 34 per cent of people favourable towards nuclear power while over 80 per cent were favourable towards solar power and wind power (Corner et al 2011). whether for nuclear or anything else chosen. Renewable trade associations said that the ‘feed-in tariff’ system was workable for renewable energy (albeit with improvements in the design of the Government’s scheme). and consumers had to pay because of the supply of electricity was a monopoly. Yet this requires expenditure of further political resources in order to gain Parliamentary acceptance. especially among the Liberal Democrats. There is always the possibility that the Government could introduce further measures to incentivise nuclear power. Hence despite the proposed interventions into the market. whose own Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. but their ‘balance sheets’ are thus exposed to risk with attendant fears of falls in profits. Under the pre- neoliberal nationalised regime this was unnecessary as the technological selection.11 power plants. The utilities can still invest. Certainly. Conclusion .

under neoliberalism this situation is more problematic. is that ‘securitisation’ strategies may not be sufficient to overcome the discourse and embedded practices of neoliberalism. has sufficient political support. As can be seen with the Labour Government’s ‘securitising’ policy favouring nuclear power. Such practices favouring nuclear power have been signalled by the Coalition Government. the Coalition entered into a subtly different discourse in which the position of ‘nuclear’ was repositioned. two points need to be observed here. A further observation is that the use of storylines by the Government in its White Papers is concerned not merely with instrumentalising policy but also represents an amalgam of different discursive elements designed to meet its party political needs. in practice. the renewable energy programme was launched as an integral part of neoliberalism. However unless the interest that seeks to gain from this discourse. since at least 2005. First. So. which did have a more recognisable instrumental agenda in terms of deploying nuclear power. By contrast the Coalition Government. whilst renewable energy is generally well supported by public opinion. However. The UK Government has. The Labour Government employed pro-nuclear rhetoric in the context of doing. been able to intervene in the market sufficiently to achieve a renewable energy deployment programme. that is unless accompanied by major interventionist practices. such as favouring nuclear power stations being built. An especially significant point. who has attempted to situate support for nuclear power in a wider ‘decarbonisation’ strategy to counter climate change. Nevertheless since 2006 there has been a dominant securitising discourse inherent in Government policy that has been associated with nuclear power.12 One observation concerning the use of securitisation theory arising from this case is that it should not be assumed that the establishment always utilises state-centric notions of security whilst ‘critical forces’ use human security. that is nuclear power. In the days before privatisation and market liberalisation it may have been sufficient for a Government to make a policy decision. . and. is insufficient to overcome the neoliberal paradigm. a dominant ‘securitising’ storyline. This has consequences for a discourse-analytical method since the analyst must take care to note changes in political context before making analytical conclusions drawn from comparisons of different documents from different times. In this case the role may sometimes be reversed since the attack on nuclear power is often focussed on its alleged inherent security dangers while nuclear proponents focus on the maintenance of human and economic security. Second. and may be little more than reformulations of policies that have been previously applied under liberalised market arrangements. Other reforms that have been proposed are not revolutionary. before energy security was constructed as a key problem. relatively little to instrumentalise this policy – perhaps as means of making its own internal disagreements appear consistent. However. Nationalised companies could borrow cheaply using Government terms and they could be assured of recovering their costs from consumers through their retail monopolies. nuclear power’s public support has been relatively weaker. especially in the aftermath of Fukushima. and then being confident that the nationalised utility would sort out the details. even when associated with climate change strategies. nevertheless employed a ‘decarbonisation’ discourse at least partly as a means of smoothing political demands for there to be the appearance of no subsidies for nuclear power. Yet the extent to which such stratagems will succeed in overcoming the barriers inherent in the neoliberal system is still very unclear. which may be advanced as a sensitising hypothesis for further studies. as has been discussed. then it may well fail to secure sufficiently strong market intervention to assure a large (or indeed any) new nuclear programme.

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or 18 9 3 1 (historical) positive towards. competitive energy markets Present electricity 2 1 0 4 markets negative to energy security Climate change 0 7 11 1 linked to energy security Coal positive for 1 5 1 1 energy security Gas positive for 2 -4 -1 2 energy security Renewable energy 5 3 1 3 positive for energy security Nuclear power -2 2 12 0 positive for security Energy efficiency 2 8 2 2 positive for energy security Gas or Gas CCS 0 0 1 1 positive to combat (decarbonisation) climate change Coal CCS positive 0 0 1 1(decarbonisation) to combat climate change Renewables 3 3 1 1 positive to combat (decarbonisation) climate change Nuclear power 0 6 14 1 positive to combat (decarbonisation) climate change Energy efficiency 2 6 1 1 positive to combat (decarbonisation) climate change .17 Comparison of frequency of selected statements in four UK White Papers on Energy Policy Selected 2003 2006 2008 2011 (50600 statements (56400 (84000 (14300 words long) words long) words long) words long) Promotion of.