The context of this discussion is that even after the massive ramp up of solar in the last year or so it provides less than 0.5% of this country’s energy. It only provides this paltry amount because the Government has been paying around 5 times the going rate for such electricity at a cost to the consumer of around £1 billion. This is paid for by domestic consumers, many of whom are living in fuel poverty, and industrial consumers, many of whom are relocating marginal activities.
All of this is apparently being done to meet our carbon reduction targets. In particular, the 2008 Climate Change Act which mandates an 80% reduction in carbon usage by 2050.
But here is the big point. Solar produces 3 times more CO2 per kWh over its lifecycle than nuclear. The full facts on this are set out in the Peer Reviewed research, documented in the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) report. Conveniently, nuclear also costs much less.
The policy failure, which began under the last Government, has been to confuse two competing objectives: the need to decarbonise and the drive for renewables. The former should be regarded as paramount while the latter is just one way of achieving that aim.
To meet our Climate Change Commitments and markedly reduce the rise in energy costs we need to commence a massive shift to nuclear, supplemented in the short and medium term by replacing our oil and coal infrastructure (about 65% of energy consumed) with gas. The recent announcement at Hinckley Point is important, but unless it is the first of many (at least another 20 over the next decade), we will fail to decarbonise and we will build a very expensive energy infrastructure with all that that entails for our competitiveness.