The planned Hinkley Point C nuclear plant will be outpaced by cheaper, lower-carbon energy sources that will render it largely obsolete within a decade of opening, new University College London analysis indicates. The analysis, based on National Grid’s own energy scenarios, shows that by 2030 wind and solar energy sources will, for increasing periods of the year, be meeting all the UK’s electricity needs. With Hinkley not expected to begin operating until well into the 2020s, the plant is likely to be directly competing with more environmentally-friendly, and often much cheaper, energy sources – effectively tying the British consumer and taxpayer to an increasingly obsolete and irrelevant source of energy. The findings suggest Hinkley Point could only operate at ‘baseload’ if it forces these renewables sources off the system. Otherwise, it would have to reduce its own output, which could strain its operation and reduce its promised revenues. This means that for decades British consumers will be tied to using energy that is far more expensive than readily-available renewable sources like wind and solar. The UCL analysis even shows that by 2030, for growing periods of the year renewable sources will be able to solely fulfil demand. This starts to happen when around 30% of electricity is generated from wind and 10% from solar. The National Grid has suggested this could be easily met by 2030 – and the UK Secretary of State has indicated that the UK expects to achieve around 35% of electricity from renewables overall by just 2020.
UCL Energy Institute 16th Sept 2016 read more »
James Murray: my reluctance to join the chorus of disapproval aimed at the government over the ‘worst decision in UK energy policy history’ (trademark: virtually every respected energy analyst and environmental commentator going) is genuine. It is also a little disconcerting given I still agree with so many of the critiques slamming the project and admire so many of the experts doing the slamming. As Michael Liebreich has argued, it is eye wateringly expensive. AsTom Burke has argued, there are better alternatives available. And as Caroline Lucas has argued, there is still no long term solution to nuclear’s waste legacy. I am still hugely concerned the failure of EDF to deliver the EPR reactor on time and on budget through its last two attempts means the chances of further delays and cost overruns in Somerset are far higher than they should be. And I am also pretty confident the project’s many critics will be proved right when they predict Hinkley Point will be judged by history as an absurdly costly white elephant. Just as the most recent wave of large scale renewables projects enabled by the government’s FID contracts were left looking like the beneficiaries of overly generous subsidies as the global renewables cost reduction curve continued downwards, by the time Hinkley Point comes online it is highly likely it will have been overtaken by events. As I have argued previously the paradox of Hinkley Point is we are going to build it to deliver clean energy at the same time as striving to prove the alternatives are now so mature we never needed it in the first place. Despite its serious flaws there are good green reasons for welcoming Hinkley Point and the positive role it could yet play in the UK’s decarbonisation journey. The project promises to deliver significant emissions reductions and has helped to underscore the new government’s commitment to clean technology. It may eat into the budget for renewables, but it is also another major blow to the fossil fuel industry.
Business Green 21st Sept 2016 read more »