Dave Elliott: There have been blasts of sense on UK energy policy from the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), the government’s advisory body, and also from its advisory Committee on Climate Change (CCC), in relation to the relative prospects for nuclear and renewables. In its new National Infrastructure Assessment, the NIC said the government “should not agree support for more than one nuclear power station beyond Hinkley Point C before 2025”, since their cost seemed unlikely to fall, while renewables were getting cheaper and could prove a safer investment. The CCC, in an annual progress report, although more circumspect on nuclear, said, while Hinkley was going ahead, “limited progress has been made with other new nuclear projects”, and concluded that “if new nuclear projects were not to come forward, it is likely that renewables would be able to be deployed on shorter timescales and at lower cost”. The NIC says “highly renewable, clean, and low-cost energy and waste systems increasingly appear to be achievable”. It notes that its modelling “has shown that a highly renewable generation mix is a low-cost option for the energy system. The cost would be comparable to building further nuclear power plants after Hinkley Point C, and cheaper than implementing CCS with the existing system. The electricity system should be running off 50% renewable generation by 2030, as part of a transition to a highly renewable generation mix”. That’s a pretty good package, at least for starters. Though Richard Black, from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, claimed that, if the nuclear programme is slowed as NIC suggests, even with a 50% renewable contribution by 2030, the UK will miss its non-fossil energy target. So it would need more than 50% renewables. That depends on what happens to power demand. If the “decarbonisation by electrification” programme is slowed (not so many heat pumps), then power demand would no doubt continue to fall, as it has been over recent years. So there would be less need for new nuclear or extra renewables. But there would then be a need for green gas or green heat networks, or both. Biogas from farm and home waste anaerobic digestion is one obvious source in either case, but may be limited, so a bit of solar heat and geothermal heat fed into heat networks would also be useful. As well as biomass used in combined heat and power (CHP) plants.
Physics World 18th July 2018 read more »
Ignore the National Infrastructure Commission = cutting carbon without the help of nuclear is a risky business, argues Tom Greatrex of the Nuclear Industry Association. In the few weeks, we have seen the Nuclear Sector Deal, the strategy on zero emission vehicle technology, the European Court dismissal of Austria’s challenge to Hinkley Point C, a Brexit White Paper, National Grid’s latest future energy scenarios and the National Infrastructure Commission’s (NIC) Assessment. All are, in and of themselves, important contributions to the ongoing debate as we shift towards a low carbon future power mix, and the distinction between electricity and energy continues to diminish. When government published its Nuclear Sector Deal with the nuclear industry – one of the first of a number of sector deals that will form part of the government’s developing industrial strategy – it did so on the basis of an agreement that understood the inherent value of a baseload low carbon source of generation that also provides highly skilled jobs, often in remote parts of the UK. In 2016, the value of civil nuclear to the UK economy was £6.4bn – equivalent to the aerospace manufacturing sector.
Business Green 19th July 2018 read more »