The government should shift its investment in renewable energy away from ‘unreliable’ wind power to nuclear and carbon capture and storage to avoid putting the security of the UK’s energy supply at risk.
That’s according to a report, The Economics of Renewable Energy, by the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee on the government’s plan to generate 15 per cent of the UK’s energy from renewable sources to meet EU targets by 2020.
The nuclear question refuses to go away and while many sources of renewable energy remain either expensive to produce or are unsuitable for large-scale commercial generation – or both – it’s going to remain a tough one for the green lobby to dismiss.
Wind turbines are still the most readily available source of increases in renewable electricity but the Lords Committee says until satisfactory and commercially viable storage mechanisms are introduced wind power cannot be relied upon to generate electricity when it is needed.
Lord Vallance, chairman of the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee, said:
“The UK is most likely to adopt wind power as its main means of producing more renewable electricity. This has an inherent weakness in that it cannot be relied upon to generate electricity at the time it is needed. Current policies would take the UK into uncharted territory, with a dependence on intermittent supply unprecedented elsewhere in Europe.”
The crux of the report is about investment for renewable energy and the Lords’ committee calls on the government to create a stable investment environment for alternative forms of low carbon power generation – specifically nuclear. There’s that ‘n’ word again.
The Lords say nuclear energy presents a viable, low-carbon alternative that is not intermittent and can be produced at a significantly lower cost than renewable energy. Carbon capture and storage is another area that investment should be targeted, the report adds.
Other recommendations in the report include:
The government should not seek to increase the use of biofuels until the costs of carbon abatement associated with its use as an alternative energy supply are reduced.
The government should consider establishing a substantial annual prize for the best technological contribution to producing economical renewable energy and promote research into electricity storage technologies to overcome the problems associated with intermittency.
Lord Vallance adds:
“We accept that the UK Government, along with others, must take steps to reduce carbon emissions. However we are concerned that the dash to meet the EU’s 2020 targets may draw attention and investment away from cheaper and more reliable low carbon electricity generation – such as nuclear and, potentially, fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage.”