Nuclear ‘Not Needed’ in UK: Read the Latest Report by NFLA

The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) publishes today its analysis of the UK Government’s proposals to develop a new National Policy Statement (NPS) for the deployment of new nuclear power stations. In its report NFLA notes that changes in the electricity system have seen renewable energy deployment rapidly taking place at the same time as its costs have come down, and at the same time wider energy demand has significantly reduced compared to government projections. (1)

National Policy Statements (NPS) are intended to establish the case for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects, as defined in the Planning Act 2008. The current nuclear NPS (EN-6), published in 2011, lists 8 sites as potentially suitable for the deployment of new nuclear power stations by the end of 2025. These sites are Hinkley Point C, Wylfa, Moorside, Sizewell, Bradwell, Oldbury, Hartlepool and Heysham. As such, it is almost certain that no site may be deployed by that date, given that the only possible site in construction at an early stage, Hinkley Point C, depends very much on considerable financial and technical issues to be overcome in a relatively short period of time.

The Government argue there remains a real ‘need’ for new nuclear power stations to be built and producing electricity by 2035. NFLA notes though that when the Government first endorsed Hinkley Point C (HPC) in 2008, it was projecting an increase in electricity consumption of 15% by now, whereas in practice the UK is now consuming 15% less than a decade ago. (2) In other words it made a 30% error. This is despite a 13% increase in GDP over the last decade. HPC is only due to deliver 7% of consumption. So, in fact, there is no “need” for new nuclear power stations before or after 2025.

As such, NFLA calls for a statutory review of the 2011 Overarching National Policy Statement for Energy (EN-1) upon which EN- 6 (on new nuclear energy) depends.

In its report NFLA also notes:

  • There has been a consumption revolution over the past decade prompted by vastly improved electricity efficiency in industry, in consumer white and brown goods, and in areas like lighting, where household consumption has dropped from 20.7 TWh in 2007, to 19.3TWh by 2010 and by 2016 this was down to 14.2TWh. This trend is set to continue. (3)
  • Cost-effective investments in domestic energy efficiency alone between now and 2035 could save around 140 TWh of energy – roughly equivalent to the output of six power stations the size of Hinkley Point C, according to a report by the UK Energy Research Council. (4)
  • Research by the likes of UBS, Goldman Sachs, Barclays, Bloomberg and Citigroup all expect new solar and renewable technologies to drive rapid change in large scale utility companies that will bring their electricity costs down and deployment up. (5)
  • As Mike Thompson, the Head of Carbon Budgets at the Committee on Climate Change says: “It is increasingly apparent that renewables do or will offer the lowest cost of electricity over their lifetime of all generating options.” They certainly are more cost competitive than new nuclear. (6)
  • Intermittency issues with renewables could be resolved with the deployment of ‘wind to gas’ plants and combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) power stations. This would be achieved more quickly, cheaply, flexibly, and at much lower technical and financial risk than new nuclear baseload power, according to a report by Energy Brainpool for Greenpeace Energy. (7)
  • The likes of district heating systems, hydrogen green gas and larger heat pumps would reduce public and industry demand for heating to be provided from increased electrical sources of energy.

The electricity system has changed radically in the years since the project to build new third generation nuclear in Britain was initiated. NFLA agrees with the views given to the House of Lords by Michael Grubb, Professor of International Energy and Climate Change Policy at University College London, and a former supporter of new nuclear. He said: “times and conditions had substantially changed … renewables are now clearly cheaper. Committing to a 35-year contract (for Hinkley Point C) at that level was economically inappropriate.” He continued: “renewable energy costs … appear almost to have halved in the past few years … We now have more than 10 gigawatts of solar, when the cost projections were that we would get 1.5 gigawatts by about this time … It is now clear that in the electricity sector we will be delivering more renewables than the Government planned for or expected by 2020.” (8)

NFLA believe therefore that the EN-1 NPS should be re-written and there is no “need” for new nuclear.

NFLA English Forum Chair, Councillor David Blackburn said:

“The rapid changes in the electricity system in the past decade, as renewables have been deployed and new nuclear has generally stalled and been delayed by technical and economic problems, shows that there is no particular need for new nuclear power stations. Whereas the Government has predicted a large upswing in energy demand there has instead been a rapid fall which has not damaged the economy one jot, indeed has enhanced it. NFLA calls not for a new national policy statement for new nuclear, rather a reappraisal of wider energy use and generation. Renewables have delivered, will continue to deliver and remain the primary answer for future UK energy policy. Government should take on board these changes rather than moving ahead with long-term and expensive support for new nuclear.”

Ends – for more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on 0161 234 3244 or Pete Roche, NFLA Policy Advisor on 0131 444 1445.

Notes for editors:

(1) NFLA New Nuclear Monitor 52 analysing the NPS consultation is attached with this media release and will be placed on the NFLA website

(2) Letter from Andrew Warren, Chair of the British Energy Efficiency Federation, Guardian 5th July 2017 https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jul/05/nuclear-is-to-wind-as-betamaxis-to-netflix-why-hinkley-point-c-is-a-turkey

(3) Comment on the UK Clean Growth Strategy, NFLA Briefing No.169, 14th December 2017 http://www.nuclearpolicy.info/wp/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/A282_NB169_UK_Clean_Growth_Plan.pdf

(4) J, Timperley, J. Energy Efficiency Policies could save UK Homes £270 report finds. Carbon Brief 6th September 2017 https://www.carbonbrief.org/energy-efficiency-policies-save-uk-homes-270-report-finds

(5) Green World 27th August 2014 https://safeenergy.org/2014/08/27/ubs-its-time-to-join-the-solar-revolution/

(6) Mike Thompson, Five reflections on Dieter Helm’s Cost of Energy Review, Committee on Climate Change, 31st October 2017 https://www.theccc.org.uk/2017/10/31/five-reflections-dieter-helms-cost-energy-review/

(7) Energy Brainpool, Wind power with ‘wind-gas’ is cheaper and greener than Hinkley Point C nuclear plant Ecologist 17th February 2016, https://theecologist.org/2016/feb/17/wind-power-windgas-cheaper-and-greener-hinkley-point-c-nuclear-plant

(8) House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs, The Economics of UK Energy Policy 18th October 2016 http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/economicaffairs-committee/the-economics-of-uk-energy-policy/oral/42115.pdf

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