Carbon emissions cut warning over failure to build new nuclear power plants
A failure to build a new fleet of nuclear power plants could make it extremely difficult and expensive to meet goals to cut carbon emissions, MPs will warn today.
The Government seemed to be “crossing its fingers” that private companies would deliver reactors on time and on budget, the Energy and Climate Change Committee’s chairman, Tim Yeo, said.
The committee’s report raised concerns there was no Plan B for the energy sector if the new reactors were not delivered on time.
Mr Yeo also warned that any such contingency plan which would rely on achievinggreater energy efficiency or using more renewables – including imports – was very difficult to deliver – making nuclear crucial.
The latest data from the Department of Energy and Climate Change showed almost 30 per cent of the UK’s electricity now comes from low-carbon sources, and the lion’s share of that – at more than 70 per cent of the clean energy total – comes from nuclear.
The Government’s climate advisers have said the electricity sector needs to be largely decarbonised by 2030 if the UK is to meet legally-binding targets to reduce carbon emissions by 80 per cent on 1990 levels by 2050.
A key concern is the guaranteed price suppliers will be paid for low-carbon electricity from nuclear plants under long-term contracts that aim to give investors the certainty to pay the high capital costs of nuclear power.
Mr Yeo admitted that EDF, the only major player currently working on building the next generation of reactors, had the Government “over a barrel”, in terms of negotiating the price for the first contracts. But he said he hoped the first negotiations, for two units at Hinkley Point, would conclude soon and would be a “sensible” deal, and it was possible the cost for further nuclear plants could come down after that.
But Greenpeace head of policy Doug Parr said: “The fact new nuclear may not deliver is not news to anyone whose been following the issue. Instead of putting all its effort into covertly subsidising nuclear, the Government needs a plan B with energy efficiency and renewables at its core, which are able to deliver now.”
The House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee, which heard evidence from Sedgemoor District Council, has endorsed the use of community benefits to build trust among people living near existing or proposed nuclear facilities.
Duncan McGinty, leader of Sedgemoor District Council, which, with West Somerset, has battled for a fair deal for the disruption caused by a new twin reactor plant at Hinkley Point, welcomed the report’s conclusions.
Yesterday he said: “There needs to be a mechanism to address the long-term, significant physical and psychological effect on the quality of life of the host community.”