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UK ‘should turn to renewables’ to plug growing nuclear gap

Thu 17 Jan 2019 by David Foxwell

UK ‘should turn to renewables’ to plug growing nuclear gap
Emma Pinchbeck: “the government is rightly backing the UK’s world leading offshore wind sector, which can meet a third of our power needs by 2030”

Hitachi has confirmed that it is pulling out of the project to build the Wylfa nuclear power plant in the UK – renewable energy organisations say wind and solar can fill the gap.

Responding to the news, RenewableUK’s deputy chief executive Emma Pinchbeck said “Today’s announcement risks blowing a hole in the government’s plans to meet our carbon targets.

“We have the technologies, like renewables and nuclear, that can deliver a low carbon energy system and government is rightly backing our world leading offshore wind sector, which can meet a third of our power needs by 2030.

“But government has to review how it’s using low carbon policies or we risk relying on more heavily on polluting gas and coal.”

She went on to highlight the potential role of onshore wind as the cheapest source of new power. “We have a pipeline of shovel-ready onshore wind projects that can provide cheap power to consumers and help close the gap on our carbon targets and it’s time government allowed onshore wind compete on a level-playing field, including letting projects compete for Contracts for Difference”.

The Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) said, “The future of the government’s plans to roll out six new nuclear power stations across Britain is looking increasingly parlous, as the Wylfa project becomes the second power station to be scrapped. Wylfa’s demise makes the Oldbury project extremely unlikely to proceed, while Toshiba has already backed out of developing its Moorside station.

“These three power stations would have generated 73 TWh of low carbon power per year, or 15% of current demand. Their absence leaves space for new low-carbon capacity to fill the gap. Filling the ‘nuclear gap’ with alternative low-carbon power sources would keep bills down, maintain secure energy supply and allow the UK to maintain progress towards legally binding climate targets”.

An ECIU analysis showed that alternative sources of energy were “more than capable” of stepping in to cover the proposed output from EDF’s 3.2 GW Hinkley Point C power station, when the future of the project looked in doubt.

The ECIU noted that the intermittency of wind and solar power means that four ‘flexibility mechanisms’ would need to be employed to ensure security of supply. Of these – storage, demand-shifting (demand-side response, DSR), trade with neighbouring countries through interconnectors, and fast-ramping gas plants – the first two have the greatest potential, it said.

In a statement, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy said “As the Business Secretary set out in June, any deal needs to represent value for money and be the right one for consumers and taxpayers.

“Despite extensive negotiations and hard work by all sides the government and Hitachi were unable to reach agreement to proceed at this stage. The government is committed to the nuclear sector… and is reviewing alternative funding models.”

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