Dave Elliott: Dave Elliott, Emeritus Professor of Technology Policy at the Open University, argues that renewables, not nuclear power, are the way forward for energy as our guest writer for the BANNG Column for Regional Life, May 2019 The Sun newspaper recently ran an article claiming that ‘Britain will face power cuts unless the Government steps up plans to build more nuclear energy plants’ (16 March), a view reflected in a parallel Daily Mirror article which talked of fears over ‘energy shortage and lights going out’ (17 March). So, the argument goes, we need nuclear power as part of the energy mix. What seems to have escaped both papers is that electricity use has fallen significantly in the UK in recent years: so we do not need costly new nuclear plants. UK electricity use is now back to 1994 levels. This is partly owing to the success of energy saving programmes, and has occurred despite 18% economic growth over the period. It is true that, as we phase out coal use (all of it is planned to go by 2025), and as the old nuclear plants close, we will need more energy inputs, but there is no shortage of low-cost, green energy options. The cost of renewables has fallen dramatically. Onshore wind and PV solar, which are now both vying to be the lowest cost energy sources of all, are already able to deliver power at around half the cost of the power that may be produced if the Hinkley Point C nuclear project is completed. However, the Government has opposed onshore wind and has pulled support for PV solar. So we are left with new nuclear, offshore wind and some large controversial biomass projects, including some using forestry-derived wood pellets imported from the USA. Offshore wind is fine, with costs falling, and there are some very large schemes going ahead such as those in the North Sea clearly visible from Bradwell. We already get a third of our electricity from renewable energy projects like this, and, given proper support for onshore wind and PV, we might get to near 100% by 2050.
BANNG 6th May 2019 read more »