Britain risks “prolonging its dependency” on fossil fuel power stations if it fails to invest further in new nuclear reactors to counter the variability of renewables according to an analysis that found wind and solar met less than a fifth of Britain’s daily electricity demand on 82 occasions last year. The report by the Centre for Policy Studies, the centre-right think-tank, highlighted the intermittency of renewable generation last year, despite a record for solar and wind generation in 2020. The study, funded by France’s EDF Energy, the operator of all the UK’s nuclear power stations and the developer of the only new plant, found a big swing in the contribution from wind and solar. There were days when the two technologies fulfilled as little as 5 per cent of daily electricity demand but others when they met nearly two-thirds. Overall, gas remained the single biggest source of generation, at 34.5 per cent, with wind second at nearly a quarter. Nuclear was the third largest at 17.2 per cent. The report said unless more nuclear power generating capacity was built, it was unlikely that the UK could wean itself off its reliance on gas-fired stations in that timeframe. The technology to convert those plants to a clean gas, such as hydrogen, is still in its infancy. Doug Parr, chief scientist for Greenpeace UK, dismissed more large nuclear stations as “colossally expensive white elephants” where costs were always spiralling out of control. In contrast, he said, the cost of battery and hydrogen technology was coming down. Kwasi Kwarteng, the new business secretary, raised the hopes of the nuclear lobby this week when he told a parliamentary committee that it would be “far more expensive” to have an electricity system that was fully dependent on renewables.
FT 20th Jan 2021 read more »
City AM 21st Jan 2021 read more »
If we want a low-carbon future, we have to drop our nuclear-phobia. One of the major benefits of nuclear energy is its low carbon footprint. As nuclear energy is produced via nuclear fission rather than chemical burning, it produces no carbon. The only carbon emissions associated with nuclear power is the use of fossil fuels during their construction, mining, fuel processing, maintenance and decommissioning. Globally, nuclear power plants have avoided 64 billion tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere and prevented 580,000 deaths from respiratory diseases. Moreover, nuclear power operates at a higher capacity than renewable energy sources or fossil fuels. For example, in the US in 2016, nuclear power plants – which generated 20% of all electricity – had an average capacity factor of 92.3%, meaning they ran on full power on 336 days of the year. By comparison, hydropower operated at 38% capacity and solar power at 25% capacity. The data suggests that nuclear power is able to both reduce our emissions whilst meeting our energy demand, so why is it not more widespread?
Institute of Economic Affairs 20th Jan 2021 read more »