- Nuclear is on the cards. The UK is set to oppose a 2030 renewable energy target, and possibly replace it with a “low carbon” target. What’s the difference? The latter could include a ramping up of nuclear power, and may destabilise investment in renewable energy. The suggested move to low carbon targets comes at a time when reductions in planning regulation are expected, and the likelihood of planning permission for nuclear facilities could increase.
- But is it the answer? A report by Sir David Kind suggests that global uranium supplies (currently the basis for nuclear power) will run out by 2023, and that the focus must shift to plutonium use. Plutonium is currently a waste product of nuclear energy and there are over 100 tonnes of it currently in storage in the UK with no future plans. Whilst it does present a currently untapped energy source, there is likely to be major opposition to its use (due to its association with use in atomic bombs), and previous failed attempts to harness its energy.
- Renewable energy is still a key component of low-carbon energy security. The Royal Academy of Engineers published a futures report which describes the need for the biggest step change in energy since the war.
- The report suggests that whilst nuclear or clean coal technology will be needed to fill the energy gap, the UK are likely to still need a dramatic increase in renewables to reach our 2050 goal of an 80% reduction in carbon emissions. The report predicts a need for 20,000 wind turbines, 36m2 of solar panels per house, 1,000 miles of wave power machines, 2,300 tidal turbines, 40 new power stations (nuclear or “clean coal”), 75% reduction in fossil fuel use, and 20% cut in white goods energy use.
For government, these insights suggest that political enthusiasm is still needed to boost renewable energy. Whilst the need for nuclear is recognised, new evidence suggests that the benefits may be short-lived without a move to plutonium usage. Anecdotal evidence suggests that changes from renewable targets to low carbon targets may deter renewables investors and destabilise the market on the lead up to 2050.