50 per cent renewables is an admirable goal, but significant challenges remain, AECOM’s Richard Lowe welcomes the National Infrastructure Commission’s vote of confidence in renewables, but warns considerable medium term technical challenges still need to be overcome. The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has rightly prioritised renewable power generation in its first National Infrastructure Assessment, which sets out a long term plan for meeting the country’s identified infrastructure needs and priorities. Industry now has a key role to play in helping the UK seize the assessment’s so-called ‘golden opportunity’ to switch to greener ways of providing energy without increasing bills. Embracing low-carbon and renewable sources will not only bring benefits to the public and businesses, but will also help ensure the UK meets its legally-binding climate change targets. Importantly, the UK needs a diverse mix of sources to increase its energy security. The NIC’s aspiration of increasing renewable power generation to 50 per cent by 2030 is certainly ambitious. Building a low-carbon energy system centred on renewables such as solar and onshore wind could not only reduce consumer energy bills, it would also reflect what the public is in favour of. However, there are several issues that need to be considered when approaching this considerable task. Firstly, batteries cannot currently economically support renewables to the amount required by cities across the UK. They are not currently economical to install and need to drop in price much further in order to bring cost benefits for the public. The message regarding no further support for new nuclear power stations (after Hinkley and one other plant) before 2025 may affect investor confidence depending on how it is used by Government. Only allowing one more Contract for Difference (CfD) before 2025 potentially jeopardises several ongoing schemes, such as NuGen Moorside, Oldbury, Sizewell C and Bradwell. Several of the schemes are attracting overseas investment and have been in development for several years, so are already part way through their investment cycles. CfDs can only be negotiated after the granting of the Development Consent Order (DCO). This process takes at least three to four years for a nuclear project, often longer.
Business Green 30th July 2018 read more »