Prospect issues warning on UK generating capacity

UK generating capacity to drop 30 per cent by 2030 if government doesn’t get on with nuclear new build

A new report from Prospect sets out the case for nuclear new build in the UK and highlights the potential energy gap if we don’t get on with starting new nuclear power stations

Making the case for New Nuclear looks in detail at the make-up of energy generation both coming on-stream and being decommissioned in the coming years.

It finds that there is a potential 30 per cent reduction in generating capacity by 2030 due to the planned phasing out of coal power stations decommissioning of nuclear power stations, and potential loss of ageing gas power stations.

The report shows that new nuclear is the best way to meet this capacity shortfall, due to a potential strike price 13 per cent lower than that for offshore wind in 2017 and 42 per cent lower than the strike price agreed for Hinkley C if the right funding model is adopted.

The union argues that new nuclear would help the UK to reduce carbon emissions whilst also ensuring a reliable source of energy to help keep the lights on all year round.

Prospect’s modelling shows that in periods of high demand, low wind and unreliable interconnectors, for example in a calm cold snap, the UK could experience potential supply shortfalls of 9-21 per cent.

Low wind can also be a risk during summer months leading to much higher summer peak prices and high dependence on gas for back up.

It is unclear to what extent the UK will be able to rely on EU interconnectors post-Brexit, and with Russia being the source of a lot of natural gas this creates huge uncertainty about our security of supply.

There are also large potential benefits to new nuclear. On average existing nuclear power plants directly generate £1 out of every £8 of economic value in their local economies, even before accounting for supply chain benefits or wages spent locally. During the operational phase this equates to around 34,000 high skilled jobs nationally and up to £6 billion per year for UK plc.

Prospect’s analysis, based on figures from the Office for National Statistics and the National Audit Office, shows that a 50% government stake would generate £1.35 in tax revenue for every £1 spent.

The recent Nuclear Sector Deal published by the government states that it is open to new funding approaches to attempt to reduce the cost of nuclear, however Prospect argue that government must be more active in seeking to push forward with the new build projects.

Sue Ferns, Prospect’s senior deputy general secretary said: “Increasing reliance on non-despatchable generation, such as wind and solar, at the same time as increasing reliance on imports, significantly increases energy security risk and will take the UK into uncharted territory.

”If the UK is serious about its commitment to a low carbon economy and it wants reliable year-round security of supply then it has to stop dithering on nuclear new build.

“We have a huge skills base in this country which is at risk if we don’t get some certainty. For the sake of jobs, skills, growth and security of supply it is vital that the government commits to nuclear new build now.”

Read the full report here.