Get building to keep the lights on
Published: 7 September 2015 - Marianne Evans
News that EDF’s new Hinkley Point C nuclear plant will not be operational by 2023 proves the government needs to set out a clear road map outlining how the lights are going to stay on, energy union Prospect has said.
On behalf of 24,000 professionals, managers and engineers across the energy sector Prospect deputy general secretary Garry Graham said: “The prevailing Zeitgeist that the private sector will provide will only happen if the government gives investors confidence and clearly articulates what is needed.
"The delay, while no surprise to those working in energy, shows we need action to support nuclear new build now. Our existing nuclear fleet is the largest contributor to low-carbon base-load generation. But it is reaching the end of its operational life at the same time as more coal plant comes offline.”
He pointed to the closure of generating plant at Ferrybridge, Longannet and, most recently Eggborough. “On an isolated basis these decisions are driven by commercial logic but the bigger question remains. How do we ensure reliable base-load generation to keep the lights on?
“It is an indictment of current policy that we are paying energy intensive users to cease production and come off supply at points of peak demand. It is scandalous that we are the first industrial nation telling industry to stop production because we cannot service their energy needs.”
Graham emphasised that the UK government needs to act urgently to enable a final investment decision to be made.
“Any road map should address the skills and supply chain capability and capacity and ensure that the UK benefits from these huge construction projects, and is a world leader in low-carbon generation. This is imperative because of the long lead times for such projects.”
Any road plan should:
be realistic about the significant contribution coal and gas will continue to play in the foreseeable future
back investment in technologies such as carbon capture and storage
invest in infrastructure that supports generation from a variety of sources, including wind and solar.