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Tag Archives: nuclear power

100% renewables – a fantasy?

By Dave Elliott

‘Electricity comprises just one fifth of annual energy demand in the UK, so creating a 100% renewable energy economy would be an order of magnitude more difficult than the already challenging task of powering our existing electricity grid with 100% renewable sources’. So says a report from the Policy Exchange, putting the case for Small Modular Reactors. It’s a familiar line – 100% for power will be very tough, 100% for all energy impossible.

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Nuclear power – game over?

By Dave Elliott

Foratom, the European nuclear trade body, commenting on the European Commission’s ‘Clean Energy for All Europeans’ plan, says the EU’s aim to decarbonise the economy by over 80% by 2050 cannot be achieved without nuclear power. ‘Nuclear energy accounts for half of the low-CO2 base-load electricity currently generated in the EU. It provides reliable low-CO2 base-load electricity and can provide the flexibility of dispatch required to balance the increasing share of intermittent energy sources, hence continuing to contribute to security of supply.’ It wants an end to preferential treatment and ‘priority dispatch’ rules for renewables.

Foratom is not alone in pressing the case for nuclear. The World Nuclear Association is looking to an extra 1000 GW of nuclear capacity globally by 2050, while a Global Nexus Initiative report says it will be extremely hard, if not impossible, to meet the Paris COP21 climate goals ‘without a significant contribution from nuclear power’ – globally 4000 GW will be needed by 2100.

Given the somewhat constrained situation facing the nuclear industry at present, stuck at around a 11% global contribution while renewables roar ahead to 24% and beyond, with prices continually falling, is there any reality in these nuclear ambitions?

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Green energy levy freeze

By Dave Elliott

The UK’s Autumn Budget may have backed Electric Vehicles, but it wasn’t too helpful in terms of providing extra support for the green electricity they ought to use, if we want carbon emissions to be reduced. Tucked away in the Budget details was a plan for replacing the Levy Control Framework, which caps spending on green energy projects, with a new ‘Control of Carbon Levies’ system.  It will cover the Renewables Obligation (RO), Feed-in Tariffs (FiTs) and the Contracts for Difference (CfD) systems as before, but the bad news is that, to keep future costs down, on the basis of current forecasts, there will be no new low carbon electricity levies until 2025’.

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US: energy in La La land

By Dave Elliott

It is hard to know what will happen in the energy and climate policy area in the USA under Donald Trump’s presidency. Before his election he had famously rubbished climate change as a fraud and was clearly pretty hostile to renewables – and all things green. In office he has set about cutting support for climate-related US policies and has announced withdrawal from the COP21 Paris climate agreement. He has also sought cuts in government support for renewables in the US. But although federal support is important, many programmes are run at the state level and states may resist his directives. Companies may do too – renewables are increasingly profitable investments, and an area of rapid growth: just the sort of thing you would imagine he would like.

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Election promises on energy

By Dave Elliott

In the UK general election run up, with consumer power costs rising provocatively, there had been talk of a cap on energy prices and, in its election manifesto, although specifics were absent, the Conservative party certainly focused on economics. It said Our ambition is that the UK should have the lowest energy costs in Europe, both for households and businesses’ and it would aim for ‘competitive and affordable energy costs following a new independent review into the cost of energy’. (more…)

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Nuclear Power: Past, present and future

By Dave Elliott

I have been looking at some early, novel, nuclear ideas and how some of them are being re-explored. Thorium, molten salt reactors, high temperature reactors, fast neutron reactors- they have all been tried earlier on, with mixed results. In a new book for IOPP I ask, will the revamped variants, including smaller versions, do any better? And more radically, do we actually need any of them- has nuclear really got a future?

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Nuclear is cheap says Lloyd’s Register

By Dave Elliott

Nuclear power generation technologies are now cost competitive in some contexts and innovation is gathering pace across the sector, British consultancy Lloyd’s Register says in a report Technology Radar – a Nuclear Perspective. A parallel, wider Technology Radar – Low Carbon report, reviews renewables, energy storage and infrastructure, as well as nuclear. That is quite positive about solar power and storage, but it also presents nuclear as a possible winner.    (more…)

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Whatever next?

By Dave Elliott

Simon Taylor’s The Fall and Rise of Nuclear Power in Britain’  (UIT Cambridge) is a readable scamper through the history of the UK nuclear programme, warts and all, with much detail on who did what. The government’s Chief Scientists, Sir David King and Sir David MacKay, are seen as having played key roles in recent years, and Taylor seems to accept the resultant official view that renewables won’t be sufficient: During those inevitable dreary November days when the UK has grey skies and no wind, it will be thermal power, whether gas-fired or nuclear, which keeps the UK moving, lit and warm. Nuclear therefore has a place in the mix for the foreseeable future’. 

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Labour’s 65% renewables by 2030 plan

By Dave Elliott

Labour’s new Environment and Energy policy aims to get 65% of UK electricity from renewables by 2030 and pioneer a ‘democratic, community-led system of energy supply’. That is well ahead of what might happen under current plans, and includes 47GW of offshore wind, 21GW of onshore wind (up from around 5GW and 10GW at present, respectively) and 25GW of PV solar (up from 12GW now), but is presented as being possible since it would involve new forms of decentralised project development, alongside more conventional ‘top down’ corporate projects, suitably accelerated.

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Nuclear Prospects

By Dave Elliott

‘Supporting early new nuclear projects could lead to higher costs in the short term than continuing to support wind and solar. The cost competitiveness of nuclear power is weakening as wind and solar become more established’. So said the National Audit Office in its recent review of UK nuclear policy: www.nao.org.uk/report/nuclear-power-in-the-uk 

It did, however, say that ‘the decision to proceed with support for nuclear power therefore relies more on strategic than financial grounds: nuclear power is needed in the supply mix to complement the intermittent nature of wind and solar’. That’s an odd view. As the NAO admitted, nuclear is inflexible and cannot balance variable renewables, and the ‘security of supply’ argument may not be as strong as is sometimes claimed. (more…)

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