Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Should new nuclear play a part in meeting our energy needs: a personal view

I believe new nuclear will play a part in meeting our energy needs (Chris Huhne, first annual energy statement to parliament, 27 July 2010)
Today, the UK’s energy secretary, Chris Huhne, outlined how the government will address the issue of energy generation.  The strategy will involve new nuclear energy generation capacity.   

The context for this is relatively simple: the 2008 Climate Change Act commits the UK to an 80% reduction of carbon emission on 1990 levels by 2050.  To meet these reductions, fossil fuel consumption must be reduced, so the question is very simple: what can replace fossil fuels, when, and at what cost. 

If abandoning these commitments is not an option then substituting lower carbon intensive fuels for higher intensive fuels would help, but this is not a sustainable option.  There are new technologies to sequestrate carbon from fossil fuels (CCS) but the technology is uncertain, the method is likely to be costly even if the risks can be reduced and storage proven to be feasible beyond small demonstration projects. 

A more promising option is the use of renewable energy sources, which are becoming more cost effective each year, and will help to diversify the energy mix.  The EU is committed to a target of 20% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, but the UK has lagged behind the EU average on renewable energy for some time and on the latest figures, will struggle to contribute to this target.