Richard North, 17/09/2014  

000a Flamanville-017 nuke.jpg

Time is slipping away, and we are still a long way from finishing Flexcit. Hence, for the last week or so, I've been concentrating on the plan, which explains the relatively light blogging.

Currently, my focus is on energy policy, and in some respects it is difficult to argue that leaving the EU would afford us any relief. We have firmly shackled ourselves to the warmist agenda with the Climate Change Act, so even if we were not tied to EU policy, we would still be committed to the 2050 target of reducing emissions by 80 percent.

However, once we have left the EU, if we then decide to repeal the Climate Change Act, which in theory Parliament could do at any time, we would have restored to us some policy flexibility – notwithstanding our international treaty obligations.

With that in mind, I have been looking more closely at the 2050 target. The implications are horrendous. What I hadn't fully taken on board is that, in order to reduce emissions by 80 percent, the plan is to completely "decarbonise" electricity, and then use it to power as much as 60 percent of the private car and light van fleet, and provide most of the space and water heating for which gas is currently used.

This is common to both EU policy and the UK and, in both instances, the expectation is that, by 2050, electricity production will have to double, in order to accommodate the extra load.

For the UK, that means that peak consumption will expand from just under 60GW to about 120GW. To achieve that, we are told, "the UK intends to make significant use of the UK's wind resources, onshore and offshore. It also assumes building new nuclear plant at a rate of 1.2 GW a year, and that carbon capture (on gas and coal plants) and storage on fossil fuel plants is successful and rolled out at a rate of 1.5 GW a year after 2030.

Despite this, there no movement on the nuclear programme, while we also heard news of the Finnish 1.6GW Olkiluoto 3 plant, the fifth and biggest nuclear reactor in the country. Originally due to start operating in 2009, commissioning has now been delayed to 2018, with costs originally estimated at €3.2 billion and now expected to double.

Meanwhile, the new French Flamanville 3 reactor, on which work started in 2007, is still nowhere near completion, even though it should have started operations in 2012. With a nameplate capacity of 1,650 MW, it should have cost €3.3 billion, but costs have escalated to €8.5 billion, and there is no indication of where the escalation will end. 

Then, to add to French woes, one of the existing reactors on the site stopped working recently, for unexplained reasons (pictured), while Bloomberg is reporting that France faces possible power shortages during the winter months starting next year.

The problems here are that the planned closing of two nuclear reactors widens the gap created by the shut down of fossil-fuel generating capacity (the LCPD strikes again), while Flamanville won't be producing enough electricity to compensate.

All of this augers ill for the UK prospects, and therefore for the decarbonisation programme, while the idea of successful carbon capture is still moonshine. The chances of any CCS plants making any useful contribution to UK energy policy remains extremely remote. Thus, we are going to be struggling just to maintain our current capacity level, much less double it. With or without "Brexit", the UK is going to have to rethink its current energy policy.

Nevertheless, one would like to think that, having left the EU, we could come up with something better that we have so far, although I suspect that policymaking has deteriorated so far in the UK that we no longer need the EU to cause catastrophic failures. We can, it seems, do this all by ourselves. But, at least, outside the EU we will only have ourselves to blame.


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