Opinion: Britain's energy dilemma: Nuclear or nothing
Published: 02 Aug 2016 By Grace Kimberley
The UK government has developed a tendency in overlooking its clean energy opportunities in recent years. It’s becoming more and more unlikely that the UK will hit its 2025 renewable energy targets, despite heavy encouragement from environmental agencies and campaigners. The UK has a high demand for energy, but is finding identifying and implementing low-cost power, whilst reducing carbon emissions and hitting clean energy targets exceptionally difficult.
Hinkley Point was considered by many as a viable aid in Britain’s energy dilemmas, being that its expected to provide 7% of the UK’s electricity once operational. Gas and coal plants are high contributors of carbon emissions, which provide towards global warming. There needs to be a source of energy for when renewable energy facilities can’t operate (i.e. in the night/poor weather conditions) and this is where nuclear steps in.
With renewable energy, there has to be a clear solution to storing energy for it to provide power as steadily as nuclear, coal and gas. Currently, renewable energy utilities such as wind and solar power can provide a high amount of power at peak times, but not consistently. The means of storing renewable energy is being researched in many areas across the world, but until this is developed, which could take years, there has to be Plan B for the UK. The Government has proved it won't invest in renewable energy until its cost effective and just as efficient as other power generators.
Up until last week, Hinkley Point C seemed to be finally moving ahead with little opposition from the government. Once it was revealed that EDF were making final investment decisions for the nuclear plant, the government quickly announced it would be reviewing the project once again due to various financial fears and the impact the new government could have on the project. Up until now, the Brexit vote and change in government was deemed as irrelevant to Hinkley Point’s likelihood.
The Government is taking huge risks, in my eyes, by re-opening closed books about Hinkley Point, especially now that crucial external investors from Europe and in particular, China may become agitated at the lack of movement with the project. The UK is running out of options in solving its high energy demand and unless a miraculous discovery is made in storing renewable energy from wind and solar, there isn’t exactly an abundance of clean energy options for the UK.
The Government is concerned about the potential financial implications of the nuclear project, which would have been a huge risk for EDF without any contribution from external sources. But with the support of Chinese investors, the project is seemingly much more solid in terms of success rates. According to sources, Theresa May, the prime minister, is “concerned about the security implications of the Chinese investment in Hinkley and has delayed giving the £18bn project the green light”. China has already taken offense to the sudden “suspicion” surrounding the country's investment in Hinkley Point.
It begs the question... What are we doing? Renewable opportunities are an abundance in the UK and yet we refuse to invest in the industry, meaning we are (so far) failing miserably at our renewable energy targets. So, there is little if not any competition for Hinkley Point. What I do hope is that these barriers held up by the Government are a genuine case of ‘reading the small print’.
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