Quantcast

We Can Keep the Lights on Without Nuclear Power

Energy

Greenpeace UK

Credit: Tomas Halasz / Greenpeace

The government's nuclear plan isn't going to happen. Government wants to offer ever larger subsidies trying to keep the nuclear industry afloat, but here's a "Plan B" that keeps the lights on without new reactors.

Instead of building reactors, we should use less electricity

The government has never taken power saving seriously, even though the cheapest power station is the one we never have to build. Over the summer, the Department for Energy and Climate Change announced that we could reduce our electricity needs by 40 percent by 2030. Coincidentally, that's exactly the percentage of our electricity mix that they envisage coming from nuclear power.

We don't need to make savings of 40 percent to make nuclear redundant. But getting a grip on how much power we use is critical, because it makes it easier for renewables to fill the gap.

Renewables can meet most of our electricity needs

Renewables should be a massive success story for the UK. We've got more wind resources than we know what to do with. By 2016 onshore wind should be cheaper than gas, and by 2024 offshore wind will be too. The cost of solar and other technologies are also falling.

The Committee on Climate Change say that by 2030, renewables could provide 65 percent of our electricity. That's assuming we don't take power saving seriously—if we did, then renewables could play an even greater part, providing up to 88 percent of our electricity.

Improving flexibility and integrating heat and power policy is key

Renewable electricity is inherently variable, although we are getting very good at predicting when the wind will blow and when it won't. To make sure we always have enough power, we need to make the power grid more flexible. One way to do this is with interconnectors to other countries, so we can sell power abroad when we have too much and buy more when we're running low.

Another option is to integrate industrial heat and power. That means combined heat and power but on windy days we could use the excess electricity to run smelters and other heat generating industrial processes. The price of electricity already crashes when the wind is blowing so this should help energy intensive companies reduce their bills too.

None of this will happen while we cling to nuclear

We can quibble over exactly what percentage of our power comes from wind, and how many interconnectors we should build to Ireland or Norway. But it is absolutely clear that a nuclear-free power sector is possible and that it will only happen when Ministers and civil servants accept that no one can afford to build new reactors.

Over the past decade or so, government has moved heaven and earth to try to make new reactors work. They have failed to deliver. If we are to keep the lights on, keep bills under control and stop climate change then Ministers must draw a line under this shambles and get behind a future that's powered by renewables.

Visit EcoWatch’s NUCLEAR and RENEWABLES page for more related news on this topic.

 

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Catherine Flessen / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

By Jillian Kubala, MS, RD

Non-perishable foods, such as canned goods and dried fruit, have a long shelf life and don't require refrigeration to keep them from spoiling. Instead, they can be stored at room temperature, such as in a pantry or cabinet.

Read More
Tero Vesalainen / iStock / Getty Images

By Julia Ries

  • Two flu strains are overlapping each other this flu season.
  • This means you can get sick twice from different flu strains.
  • While the flu vaccine isn't a perfect match, it's the best defense against the flu.

To say this flu season has been abnormal is an understatement.

Read More
Sponsored
Pexels

By Andrew Joseph Pegoda

At least 40 percent to 90 percent of American voters stay home during elections, evidence that low voter turnout for both national and local elections is a serious problem throughout the U.S.

Read More
Arx0nt / Moment / Getty Images

By Alina Petre, MS, RD

Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, is a fat-soluble vitamin essential for optimal health.

Read More
Plastic waste that started as packaging clogs tropical landfills. apomares / iStock / Getty Images

By Clyde Eiríkur Hull and Eric Williams

Countries around the world throw away millions of tons of plastic trash every year. Finding ways to manage plastic waste is daunting even for wealthy nations, but for smaller and less-developed countries it can be overwhelming.

Read More