The UK must reassess its long-term energy plans. The demise of Toshiba’s Moorhouse nuclear project raises fundamental issues. Toshiba’s decision to liquidate its UK nuclear arm and pull out of the Moorside nuclear plant in Cumbria raises fundamental questions about UK energy policy. The Japanese conglomerate has tried its best to offload the project since Westinghouse, its US nuclear arm, went bankrupt in 2017. It was unable to find investors willing to take on the risk. The whole project is probably now doomed. That says something about the UK’s long-held ambition to build a new fleet of nuclear plants to replace capacity as ageing reactors and coal-fired power stations are decommissioned in coming years. So far the government has approached this emerging conundrum on a project-by-project basis. It has agreed to a subsidy at Hinkley Point, the most advanced of existing nuclear projects, by locking in an eye-watering electricity price of £92.50 per megawatt hour over 35 years. It has signalled that it may be willing to consider $5bn of investment at Wylfa, the other nuclear project furthest along the way, being developed by a subsidiary of Japan’s Hitachi. Rather than approaching this quandary piecemeal, the government should commission a fresh strategic review. The last one took place in 2013 when the energy landscape looked very different. To keep its place in national ambitions, nuclear power needs to come in at a lower cost and to attract investment. It should not require subsidies unavailable to rivals.
FT 13th Nov 2018 read more »
Sir John Armitt – chair of the National Infrastructure Commission – interview: “We don’t have to be as dependent on a nuclear solution as maybe we thought we needed to be 10 years ago.” When it comes to energy, then we see a future of renewables. We see the need for energy efficiency, which has proven very difficult. The building stock that we have in this country – what we have today represents 80% of, probably, of what we will have in 2050. So, making our existing building stock more efficient, consuming less energy and containing energy is going to be a major challenge. The other big challenge is heat. So, how do we replace what, largely in the UK, is natural gas, what are the alternatives? Our analysis at the moment would tell us that two alternatives are hydrogen or heat pumps. Particularly, hydrogen as a technology is not sufficiently developed at the moment. So, there we are saying to the government: “Government, you’ve got to support some real research and development to see whether hydrogen first can be transported safely, can be used in homes and factories safely.” I think where I have been accused of a change of mind is on nuclear. Where, in the past, I’ve been a strong supporter of nuclear, this work that we have done in the national infrastructure assessment – and the evidence base that we have got for it – I think that we are in a different world today. We don’t have to be as dependent on a nuclear solution as maybe we thought we needed to be 10 years ago. If the evidence changes, then I’m quite happy to change my own reflection of that, my own views on that.
Carbon Brief 13th Nov 2018 read more »