New balance of power
TRUMPeTING an ambition to make Britain carbon neutral by 2050 is one thing. Making it happen while also keeping the lights on, is quite another.
Demand for power is expected to double over the next 30 years, as millions of motorists switch to electric cars.
Renewables such as wind and solar, though becoming more productive, simply won’t fill the yawning energy gap in time.
And with high-emitting fossil fuels (which account for 40 per cent of power supply) being phased out, expanding nuclear is the only realistic option.
So it’s no coincidence that the Government announced the start of talks to build the new Sizewell C reactor on the same day it published a White Paper setting out its vision for our green future.
With much of our nuclear estate reaching the end of its life, a new generation is long overdue. But Sizewell C won’t be finished until early next decade and even then will fulfil only 7 per cent of our needs.
hinkley Point C, currently under construction, will provide about the same, but that still won’t be enough.
More nuclear capacity is desperately needed and a private consortium led by the UK’s flagship engineering firm RollsRoyce could be part of the solution.
With sufficient backing, its Small Modular Reactors – mini-nuclear plants – could be built around the country on existing manufacturing hubs, at a fraction of the price and in less than half the time.
It would also reduce our dependence on monstrously expensive foreign contractors, repatriating thousands of high- quality engineering jobs.
Along with intensive focus on renewables and hydrogen, this kind of exciting technology may yet allow ministers to achieve their green ambitions.
If they fail to harness the power of innovation however, our zero-carbon future is little more than a fantasy.