The Looming Energy Crisis

Posted by PJ Owen (SONE Webmaster) on 22 October 2010 in Articles

Tagged with: Energy Crisis, Nuclear power, Renewables.

Britain has known for several years that electricity supply was likely to be very tight over the next 10-15 years.

Indeed, SONE sent a pamphlet, The Looming Energy Crisis, to the Cabinet and all MPs immediately before the 2005 general election warning of the risks being run and calling for a new nuclear power station programme.

At that time, the Government considered nuclear to be “economically unattractive”. A year later it revised its position and in 2008 officially welcomed a nuclear renaissance led by private companies. A great deal of work is now in train to prepare for a new nuclear power station programme but many hurdles remain.

The Conservative Opposition has formally lined up behind the Government’s pro-nuclear policy but the Liberal Democrats’ leader wants an end to nuclear and coal power generation. A number of so-called “Green” groups adopt the same position, claiming that Britain’s electricity needs can be met by a combination of renewable and alternative sources of electricity – e.g. wind, tidal, solar – and energy efficiency.

This briefing explains why SONE regards this as dangerously ill-informed and why there is no current substitute for nuclear power if the national objective is to achieve greater security of supply at competitive cost and combat global warming.

Where power comes from

On the accepted basis of measurement, Britain currently has adequate electricity generation plant and, according to the Government, a winter margin of around 25 per cent of seasonal peak capacity. This suggests a comfortable position, but it assumes that reserve plant would be available as required. However, the UK grid has not been tested for many years by a severe winter and it is known that in colder spells over the past eight years there have been some close calls.

Broadly speaking – and the proportions of fossil fuels vary with relative prices – supply is obtained from coal and gas, each around 37 per cent, nuclear 18 per cent, renewables 5 per cent (of which wind accounts for 1.3 per cent), and imports from France of 2-3 per cent.

Download the full Looming Energy Crisis Leaflet PDF