Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Germany goes for renewables, UK for nuclear

As you can read in a report in 'Renewable Energy World', Germany is now planning to increase the share of renewable energy as a proportion of generation from the present 16 per cent to 80 per cent in 2050. This is in sharp contrast to the UK, where the plans outlined in the National Policy Statement (and the documentation produced by the Climate Change Committee) suggests that nuclear will have a much bigger share than renewables by 2050. Indeed the UK plans seem to be a bizarre parody of public expectations. These may be that conventional fuels dominate the present prior to a renewable energy future (that's a consistent view from opinion polls which massively favour renewables). But under the plans presented by the country's energy establishment it seems that we shall have continued growth in renewables for a few years and then the nuclear programme will kick in and we sail off into a nuclear future! The implicit assumption in Government documents is that renewables will peak at providing little more than 20 per cent of electricity demand and that nuclear will supply an increasingly larger share of the rest. This is a key reason why I depart from others who think that the Government's 'electricity market reform' proposals are green (see previous two blogs). As my last blog said, nuclear ain't green.

The Climate Change Committee assumes that there will be little decline in the costs of renewable fuels such as offshore wind power and solar photovoltaics in the future, while the (draft) National Policy Statement assumes that uranium supplies will always be available at low prices. On the one hand there is the point that people will be prepared to pay more for clean renewable sources than for nuclear anyway; but besides this the Climate Change Committee have made some decidedly pro-nuclear assumptions about future costs of renewable and nuclear energy sources. You might say, well, they have got to assume something. Indeed, but they happen to settle on numbers which justify a nuclear future. Companies such as EDF want to keep renewables down to below 25 per cent of electricity supply because they say anything more makes like more difficult for the operation of their nuclear power stations. I urge people to write to their MPs complaining about these priorities and about the use of subsidies from consumer electricity bills to support nuclear power rather than renewables.

One contrast of how 'facts' are selected from nuclear and not renewable sources is how the National Policy statement takes the International Atomic Agency's word that uranium supplies will be plentiful in the future (if the world follows David McKay's suggestion of a nuclear dominated future for the UK?) and how there cannot be uranium supply crises. Yet the Climate Change Committee will not take any notice of the solar industry's projections of future cost reductions. In fact costs of both solar power and wind turbines are set to decline in the future as China increasingly supplies these technologies in ever increasing numbers.

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