In the era of cheap renewable energy, new nuclear plants don’t add up. The Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission says the energy market has changed dramatically in a short time, and this should be reflected in how Britain plans its future energy supply. For many years I’ve been an advocate of nuclear energy – I oversaw the development of Sizewell B – but I’ve started to change my mind. I’m not the only one; Toshiba abandoned its plans for a nuclear power station in Moorside, in Cumbria, last November, and last week Hitachi suspended its proposals for new plants in Wylfa in Wales and Oldbury in Gloucestershire. The reasons for this is that new nuclear power plants are no longer adding up. As the Business Secretary told the Commons on Thursday, the falling costs of renewable energy sources have significantly altered the economics of the energy market both here and abroad. This new reality inevitably leads to the wider question of whether we can truly rely on the nuclear industry to meet the UK’s future energy needs, and if this is the right direction for the government’s policy to take – or if cheaper, more reliable solutions, such as renewable energy sources, may provide a better answer for the long term. Our National Infrastructure Assessment – the first of its kind for the UK – highlights the golden opportunity for the UK to move towards a highly renewable energy mix. We recommend that the government aim for 50 per cent of our electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030, and that ministers should approve support for no more than one further nuclear power plant after Hinkley Point C between now and 2025. This would not shut the door to nuclear completely – but it would mean that we could keep all options open, while at the same time making the most of the falling costs and improving technologies that renewables increasingly offer.
New Statesman 22nd Jan 2019 read more »
The chief executive of one of the UK’s leading utility companies has called on the government to increase targets for offshore wind energy after plans for another nuclear power station were put on hold. SSE chief executive Alistair Phillips-Davies said the UK should be the country should be grateful that in offshore wind it has an ‘off the shelf’ answer to the problem of how the country can decarbonise energy cost-effectively whilst securing jobs and growth for the UK economy. He is well-qualified to comment on energy policy in the country, having become chief executive of SSE in 2013 after working in the energy industry since 1997, when he joined Southern Electric. “Later this year our Beatrice offshore windfarm, the largest project in Scotland, will be completed, and will begin exporting low carbon electricity to the grid,” he said. “It is one of many projects delivered to time and budget, which have helped bring the costs down substantially. “Last year UK Energy Minister Claire Perry set out an ambition of an additional 1-2 GW of offshore wind per year during the 2020s taking the UK to a total of between 20 and 30GW, meaning it could be the generation technology with the largest installed capacity in the UK. “The sector has responded, and an Offshore Wind Sector Deal will be finalised later this year setting out the industry’s substantial commitments to the UK’s industrial Strategy. The question now is whether 30GW by 2030 is ambitious enough,” Mr Phillips-Davies aid. “In the coming months, the government will receive advice from the Committee on Climate Change on the implications of increasing its decarbonisation target from an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050 to net zero. “In light of the IPCC report last year, SSE supports the adoption of a net zero target, and the implications will be a need to go faster and harder on decarbonising electricity as the driver for decarbonising heat and transport.” Mr Phillips-Davies went on to say, “With the news that Hitachi has pulled out of the Wylfa project, the new nuclear programme looks in real trouble and was due to come in well above the costs of offshore wind anyway. “Nuclear has a role to play but even with substantial government support on offer, I doubt its ability to deliver cost effectively in the 2020s. With onshore wind unfortunately unpopular with this government that means offshore wind will need to do even more of the ‘heavy lifting’ to keep us on track with our climate change commitments.
Offshore Wind Journal 25th Jan 2019 read more »
Energy Voice 25th Jan 2019 read more »
IGov, a project of the University of Exeter’s Energy Policy Group, examines innovation and governance in the energy system. We focus on the fundamental, rapid energy system change that is happening at the moment, driven by technological, social and environmental factors; and examine the shifts in governance that are required in order to meet crucial goals, including carbon reduction. The evidence offered to the CCC is based on research within the UK and other countries including the US, Australia, Denmark, Germany and Portugal. IGov analysis shows that significant reform of energy governance is necessary to achieve a zero carbon economy. In summary, the following changes are needed: A shift to a more people-focussed energy system, which combines consumer protection with a wider understanding of people’s roles as citizens, engaging in the transition to zero-carbon. Better co-ordination of energy policy with climate change objectives. This could be achieved through a strategic body tasked with overseeing the energy and carbon objectives, in line with the UK’s carbon targets – an ‘energy system transformation commission’. This would be closely linked to the CCC. Regulatory reform, towards a model of adaptive regulation, to encourage innovative energy services, linking supply, demand, response and storage; and linking across buildings and transport.
IGov 24th Jan 2019 read more »