3 February 2016
Should we worry about the future security of our electricity supplies?
Last week the influential Institute of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) published Engineering the UK Energy Gap on the future security of our electricity supplies. The report concludes that the UK may need to import up to 55% of our electricity needs from interconnectors in Scandinavia and France by 2025, a figure that puts into question the notion of our energy security. The Government, however, has responded with an ‘everything will be ok’ message –but, will it be, really?
The issue is exacerbated by two other factors: our coal fired power stations are set to be closed down by 2025 due to an EU ruling to reduce carbon emissions, and, last year, the Government withdrew funding for Carbon Capture and Storage demonstration projects in the UK. Therefore, dirty coal, which in the third quarter of 2015 accounted for 21% of our electricity (more than renewables and nuclear), is set to be a thing of the past.
In the nuclear sector, EDF have delayed their final commitment to building the £18bn Hinkley C plant in Somerset. There have been rumours that they are getting cold feet due to huge financial commitments across the world, not least the 6 new reactors they have just committed to build in India beginning in 2017. So how does that impact us in Cumbria and why should we be concerned? Well, for a start, there are the inevitable cost implications when importing power. It’s all very well SSE and Eon reducing prices due to UK Government pressure, but we would have little or no influence on the pricing policy of our friends across the waters.
There is also the important issue of job security. If EDF, with all their French Government backed resources, gets the jitters, it could create instability in the market with our own fledgling NuGen new build aspirations here in Cumbria. WYG employs around 60 people in the region, and like most indigenous companies we are looking to support the nuclear new build programme with a once in a lifetime opportunity to create new jobs and boost the whole regional economy for the benefit of our communities.
The signs still look good for us all, and the management team in NuGen retains the confidence of the people and business communities alike. Long live the low carbon future!
This article by Simon Sjenitzer was published in In Cumbria