A remote area on England’s east coast, halfway between the seaside towns of Felixstowe and Lowestoft, is set to become the centre of debate about Britain’s future energy security. UK ministers are aiming to bring forward legislation in the autumn to support the financing of a 3.2 gigawatt nuclear power station in Sizewell, East Suffolk, which could generate electricity for 6m households. Ministers have been in formal negotiations with EDF about how to fund the proposed £20bn Sizewell C plant since December, and the government and the French state-backed utility have had discussions about replacing Britain’s ageing nuclear reactors for years. However, the question of whether Britain should build more large plants took on added urgency last month, when EDF closed the 1.1GW Dungeness B station in Kent seven years early. It also raised the prospect that other reactors may also be decommissioned ahead of schedule, owing to problems with their graphite cores. “The UK has made great strides in decarbonising its power sector in recent years but the forthcoming retirements of old nuclear stations could halt that progress, or even send it into reverse,” warns Simon Virley, lead energy partner at KPMG UK, who was the government’s director-general for energy markets and infrastructure between 2009 and 2015. “If there was [a capacity issue], what good is Sizewell going to do given it won’t come on line until 2034 according to EDF?” asks Stephen Thomas, emeritus professor of energy policy at the University of Greenwich. Nuclear sceptics have long argued that money would be better spent on clean energy technologies, such as offshore wind, and reducing electricity demand through measures including insulation. Under a RAB model, consumers would pay towards a new plant through their energy bills long before any electricity is generated. Opponents of the model warn that consumers would also be on the hook for cost overruns.
FT 14th July 2021 read more »