Letter Donald Miller: In proposing that the UK rely on renewables for 50 per cent of electricity supplies by 2030, with no additional nuclear power, the national infrastructure committee is embracing a high-risk policy. The day their proposal was released, power output from wind turbines met only 3 per cent of supplies at time of maximum demand and solar roughly the same. This was the highest output from wind turbines over the week, output on other days being 1 per cent or less at times of maximum demand. An increase in renewable energy from 30 per cent (the present figure) to 50 per cent of the total energy system would do nothing to guarantee that electricity was always available. This requires adequate backup from gas or nuclear plant which can be relied on to generate when the wind does not blow and the sun is not shining. Further developments in battery technology can certainly be expected, but there are no grounds today for believing that this or any other energy storage technology will ever achieve the capacity and economics required to meet demand for the extended periods required. While costs are vital for electricity, reliability of supply is even more so. Experience of building Hunterston and Torness nuclear stations confirms that both objectives can be achieved with nuclear. In the 1990s, when 60 per cent of Scotland’s electricity came from nuclear, electricity prices were among the lowest in Europe. Experience suggests that it would be a mistake to base energy policy on the inflated prices agreed by the government for the new Hinkley station.
Times 14th July 2018 read more »