Britain will remain increasingly dependent on foreign fossil fuel imports unless billions are invested in nuclear energy, former government chief scientist Professor Sir David King, has warned. King’s comments followed the withdrawal of RWE and E.ON from contracts to build two new nuclear power stations, as reported in Workers.
King, now director of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at Oxford University, said that the government assumes it is up to the market to deliver “but actually this isn’t going to happen”. He said we could not rely on the private sector to provide the huge sums needed to keep the lights on and that only strong state intervention could produce the investment in infrastructure on the scale necessary.
The government’s Electricity Market Reforms will hasten a new dash to gas. Why? The time frame and cost for implementing clean coal technology and carbon capture and storage will present the energy companies with a choice. What is it to be? Massive infrastructure investment now – an estimated £110 billion by 2020 and then an estimated £16 billion every year until at least 2030 – or go for quick profits from burning gas?
Carbon capture and storage capacity by 2016 will equate to 1.6 gigawatts, probably 5 gigawatts by 2018, whereas present coal-fired stations account for 28 gigawatts of production. So another huge shortfall, another timeline flapping in the wind. The reliability, availability and deliverability of electricity supply we’ve come to expect in Britain for the last 80 years is looking to break down. ■