In-depth Q&A: How does the UK’s ‘energy white paper’ aim to tackle climate change? Another big announcement – and one that has attracted the most headlines – is the government stating its intention to “bring at least one large scale nuclear to the point of final investment decision by the end of this parliament”. While it does not mention it by name, the white paper’s release was accompanied by the news that ministers will enter negotiations with French energy company EDF over the Sizewell C nuclear plant on Suffolk’s coast. There has been a long-running debate and plenty of controversy around the construction of the £20bn new facility at Sizewell, as with other proposed nuclear infrastructure in the UK. The discussion largely hinges on how to fund such developments. The only nuclear power plant currently under construction, Hinkley Point C in Somerset, is expected to run £2.9bn over budget. The white paper notes that “raising enough private capital to finance a nuclear power station is challenging”. Nevertheless, the government has repeatedly made it clear that it does plan to develop more nuclear power, most recently in its National Infrastructure Strategy. Prof Robert Gross, director of the UK Energy Research Centre, tells Carbon Brief that it is difficult to say definitively whether the UK “needs” new nuclear: “It is possible to make a range of assumptions about future costs of technology X or technology Y and run a model of the power system to tell you which is ‘best’. The problem is that these assumptions usually turn out to be wrong.” He says, in practice, it is more helpful to ask how the government can “make best use of competitive mechanisms to deliver net-zero at least cost” and to ensure “maximum transparency” if it does pursue a major new nuclear project. To support its plans, the government says it is “continuing to explore a range of financing options for new nuclear with developers”.
Carbon Brief 16th Dec 2020 read more »