Interview with Prof Jim Skea is the chair in sustainable energy at Imperial College London’s Centre for Environmental Policy. He is a founding member of the UK’s Committee on Climate Change and in 2015 was elected co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change‘s Working Group III. He is vice-president of the Energy Institute. Do you think Hinkley C [nuclear power plant in Somerset] will be built? And, if not, how will that gap in the UK’s energy mix be plugged?: With the various positions I hold, I am very reluctant to comment on individual projects. But the decision on Hinkley C, I don’t think hangs so much on UK energy policy as on decisions that are being made in France, because there are well publicised differences among different members of the EDF board, for example. I think the other thing to mention is that Hinkley Point isn’t the only nuclear game in town for the UK. The Hitachi Project, with the boiling water reactor, is also going through its regulatory process. You could argue that Hitachi probably has deeper pockets than EDF to carry this one through. So even if Hinkley were not to go ahead, it wouldn’t necessarily be the end of the nuclear story for the UK. But it would presumably leave a big hole – a 7% hole or whatever we variously get told about what it would mean. So, you think other nuclear would fill that void, or do you think other low-carbon sources of power would come into play at that point? It depends how strong any government wanted to be about the carbon intensity of electricity by around 2030 because there are many things, actually, that could fill the gap covered by Hinkley Point. And I don’t think security of supply is necessarily a worry that’s caused by Hinkley Point. It could be filled in by renewable energy and renewables projects have a three- or four-year planning timeline to get them through, whereas a nuclear station it’s decade at least, on experience. So there are other technologies that could come and fill the gap more quickly. If we were not to be strict on the carbon intensity of electricity, then you would find gas could fill the gap as well, if all you were worried about was getting the kilowatt hours out and you weren’t so troubled about the carbon dimension of it.
Carbon Brief 11th July 2016 read more »