Hinkley Point nuclear power plant 'not needed'

30 August 2016

The proposed Hinkley Point nuclear power station may not actually be needed to ensure the UK has sufficient power generation capacity, it has been claimed.

Cheaper alternatives are available to help the UK meet its energy and climate change targets even without the Somerset-based project, according to the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU).

The ECIU claims that a mixture of approaches including wind farms, cables connecting the UK grid with other countries and gas-fired power stations, as well as managing demand, would ensure the UK’s lights do not go out.

It would also save around £1bn per year, while meeting climate targets.

ECIU director Richard Black said: “Despite years of debate on Hinkley, we’re still not sure whether or not it’s going to get built.”

Prime minister Teresa May has put the project on hold while she reviews security concerns over Chinese involvement in the project. China is due to part fund the £18bn project alongside France’s EDF Energy.

“The prime minister is due to make a decision next month, but even if she says ‘yes’ there are many other issues that could derail the project, including legal cases and EDF’s financial woes,” said Black.

“So we wanted to know how essential Hinkley is for the ‘energy trilemma’ – keeping the lights on while cutting greenhouse gas emissions and keeping costs down.” 

The report found that building four large wind farms on top of those already in the pipeline, or building three connector cables to allow extra electricity to be purchased from neighbouring countries, would mean Hinkley’s 3.2GW output would not be required.

At least two-fifths of the proposed nuclear power station’s electricity would not be needed if reforms were carried out to help the UK use electricity more efficiently.

Hinkley’s output could also be made up through cutting waste or having additional gas-fired power stations generating at peak times.

Furthermore, ECIU estimated that replacing Hinkley with offshore wind farms would cut the average household bill by between £10 and £20 a year, while substituting it with gas-fired generations plants would save £16bn in energy costs, the report claimed.

“Our conclusion is that it’s not essential; using tried and tested technologies, with nothing unproven or futuristic, Britain can meet all its targets and do so at lower cost,” said Black.

“So if Mrs May decides to go ahead with Hinkley, all well and good – if she decides not to, or if the project stumbles at a later stage, we have alternatives.”

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