Jonathon Porritt: In March 2012, four former directors of Friends of the Earth (myself, Tom Burke, Charles Secrett and Tony Juniper) wrote to Prime Minister David Cameron to warn him that the pro-nuclear bias of his advisers across government posed a significant risk to the government’s ability to fashion a coherent energy policy. We were concerned at that time that this bias was distorting views on what was known then as the ‘energy trilemma’: availability (as in security of supply); affordability (unlike this government, David Cameron’s at least professed to care about fuel poverty); and decarbonisation. We invited him to acknowledge that the costs of his pro-nuclear policy were already significant and would escalate over time, whereas the benefits were intangible, remote and would almost certainly prove illusory. As we said: “Viable options are available to meet our energy and climate security needs at much lower economic and political risk, and will create predominantly British jobs and growth.” It’s depressing how much of the counter-briefing that we provided him with at that time would be as relevant for Boris Johnson today as it was, nine years ago, for David Cameron. That pro-nuclear bias was epitomised in the advice of Sir David MacKay, DECC’s chief scientific adviser between 2009 and 2014. Just before his untimely death in 2016, he described the suggestion that solar, wind and other renewables (combined with effective storage technologies) could power the UK’s electricity needs as “an appalling delusion”, forcefully recommending that the government should double down on both nuclear power and carbon capture and storage. Just five years later, in 2021, renewable energy is already providing more than 40 per cent of the UK’s electricity supply. On the recent Bank Holiday, wind power alone provided an astonishing 48.4 per cent of the UK’s electricity.
Green Alliance Blog 7th May 2021 read more »