The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) is concerned with the direction of travel with low carbon energy policy in the British Isles. This state of flux puts at risk achieving essential long-term carbon reduction targets.
The abolition of the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and its absorption into a new Department of Business, Energy and Infrastructure Services (BEIS) suggest a changed emphasis in favour of the economic role of energy rather than the fundamental need to reduce carbon emissions.
Despite its many faults, DECC gave a cross-departmental steer across government to tackle climate change as a core priority of the country. Moving it into an infrastructure department susceptible to be dominated by big business comes as a worry to many environmental groups. NFLA want to see the new Secretary of State Greg Barker, and the Ministers of State who will take charge of energy policy, refocusing policy on retaining ambitious carbon reduction targets, supporting the development of community and decentralised energy solutions and ensuring safe radioactive waste management and nuclear decommissioning policies are maintained.
Yesterday, the Welsh Affairs Select Committee published its report (1) on the future of nuclear power in Wales. Amongst its recommendations were:
- The UK Government should negotiate a strike price for Wylfa Newydd below that agreed for Hinkley Point C and seek a price that would be competitive with renewable sources, such as on-shore wind. The Government should not continue with the project if the price is too high. NFLA supports the latter of these statements and believes Wylfa will not be competitive with renewables.
- The UK Government provide a clear and comprehensible explanation of how the lifetime costs of energy sources are compared. In particular, it should show how it compares new nuclear with renewable alternatives. NFLA believes if such an explanation were properly made then renewables would be considerably more cost effective.
- The UK Government devises a contingency plan for a delayed start to the Wylfa Newydd project.
- The impact on the local environment needs to be minimised as much as possible if Wylfa Newydd goes ahead.
- The UK and Welsh Governments should work with Anglesey and Gwynedd County Council to progress other aspects of the ‘Energy Island’ programme and to find alternative economic strategies for the area. NFLA has been calling for such alternative strategies to be developed for some years now.
- At the decommissioned Trawsfynydd site, the committee recommended that, so long as high safety standards continue, the NDA should implement a realistic plan for continuous decommissioning that could keep more jobs on site, which would be a major benefit to the local area. NFLA would support this recommendation.
- Trawsfynydd should be the first site for the development of small modular nuclear reactors. In its evidence to the committee (2), NFLA noted the costs, complexity and supply chain for such reactors is decades away and would divert scarce resources from up-scaling renewable energy.
Also yesterday, the Scottish Affairs Select Committee published its report on the renewable energy sector in Scotland (3). Amongst its conclusions and recommendations were:
- The renewable electricity sector in Scotland is an exemplar of how this sector can thrive, provided there is a supportive policy environment.
- There has not been enough transparency regarding how decisions have been made on overspends to the Levy Control Framework for commissioning energy projects, and it is therefore not clear how the Government arrived at the specific options it has chosen. The way in which the Government has responded to the projected overspend has created uncertainty for the renewables sector. NFLA agrees.
- Scottish Renewables told the Committee that early closure of the Renewables Obligation to onshore wind will cost Scotland up to £3 billion in lost investment and put 5,400 jobs at risk. The changes could also affect significant additional investment and job creation.
- The UK Government should review its decision to bar onshore wind schemes from accessing subsidies, and explain in its response to the Committee how its decision to withdraw support for onshore wind, one of the cheapest forms of renewable energy, tallies with its commitment to keep down the costs of supporting renewable electricity.
- To complement the provisions of the Scotland Act 2016, the UK Government should put in place a clear process for consulting the Scottish Government on the design of, or amendment to, renewables incentives.
- The UK Government should include Remote Island technology in the list of less established technologies which will be eligible to bid for funding in the next round of Contracts for Difference.
NFLA broadly supports these recommendations. The Committee’s final recommendation is one NFLA is particularly supportive of:
The UK Government should work with the Scottish Government (and for NFLA also the Welsh and Northern Ireland Governments) to produce a long-term strategy for the future of the UK’s electricity supply, and detail how this will be achieved. This should cover:
- A plan for future energy mix which is compatible with meeting carbon emission targets.
- An indication of support for renewable electricity generators, and which technologies will be supported.
- The role of carbon capture and storage in mitigating the carbon emissions of gas power plants.
- How the deployment of electricity storage will be encouraged.
- The role of demand side response in reducing electricity demand.
NFLA would also add the need to support community and decentralised energy solutions. For NFLA there is an urgent and pressing need, particularly after the decision to leave the European Union, to bring certainty to the renewable energy sector. NFLA consistently believe new nuclear is not the answer to our future energy needs and urges the new Secretary of State to make an urgent review of current energy policy. It should also consider supporting cooperation with the Northern Ireland Government and the Republic of Ireland Government over development of a single energy market.
NFLA Chair Councillor Ernie Galsworthy said:
The abolition of DECC and quite different energy policy messages from Wales and Scotland show that our energy priorities and the need to tackle climate change are in a state of real confusion. I call on the UK Government to urgently re-evaluate its support for new nuclear, which will not deliver a cost effective alternative to renewable energy. The Government should also work with the Scottish, Welsh, Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland Governments to upscale renewables, decentralised and community energy, energy efficiency and energy storage. If it does not energy security and climate change targets will be under serious threat, to the detriment of the economy and the public.”
For more information contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on 0161 234 3244.
Notes for editors:
(1) Welsh Affairs Select Committee report on the future of nuclear power in Wales, 25th July 2016 http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmwelaf/129/12911.htm#_idTextAnchor034
(2)NFLA submission to the Welsh Affairs Select Committee inquiry into the future of nuclear power in Wales,5th March 2016 https://www.nuclearpolicy.info/wp/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/NFLA_New_Nuclear_Monitor_No40.pdf
(3)Scottish Affairs Select Committee report on the Scottish renewables sector, 25th July 2016 http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmscotaf/83/8309.htm?utm_source=83&utm_medium=crbullet&utm_campaign=modulereports