Low Carbon Subsidies for All!

Through the queens speech the coalition government announced a series of energy market reforms, in the form of the energy bill, that they hope will provide an adrenaline boost to the flagging industry, mainly in the form of complex subsidies. However, as has been apparent with most announcements regarding the energy industry from the government, there are still large areas of policy shrouded in mystery.

The system the government is trying to implement works around low-carbon electricity (from renewable or nuclear sources) can sign long-term contracts to supply at a preferential rate, so effectively legislating against carbon emissions. While this on the face of things looks like a step in the right direction the head of climate change at WWF-UK had some harsh criticism of the legislation, while saying it was a step in the right direction he indicated that it did not nearly go far enough.

One significant implication of the legislation is that it will effectively subsidise the Nuclear Industry as it is a low carbon source of electricity, which is at odds with the coalition agreement, that there would be no state subsidies for nuclear power. Incentives have been shared across, what the government has been to classify as, low-carbon industries; though surely a worry is that the renewable industry will be stifled in the UK, compared against more established technologies.

If we take a look at the German Company Strabag’s development of serialised wind turbine installations, and the speed of that development, we can see what can be achieved focus is placed on renewable energy. This goes to highlight that while the renewable industry is growing in this country at a very healthy rate more can be achieved with greater support.

The Nuclear industry by its very nature is a slow developing beast with small evolutionary design changes targeted towards safety rather than taking revolutionary design steps. This approach being taken to ensure that we have the safest plants possible, as we are dealing with radiation sources after all. If we take a look at the development on the EPR plant at Flamenville in France we can see how slow Nuclear can progress.

The government is worried, and so should we all, about the impending likelihood of black outs and, with the nuclear renaissance faltering, needed to promote growth within the energy sector. With the energy bill they hope to achieve that, unfortunately as the bill seems to be lacking in detail in some areas and over complex in others, the likelihood of success is uncertain.

The future energy balance in the UK must be made up from a mixture of renewable and nuclear in order to be anywhere near the targets set for 2050 on reducing carbon emissions and we must develop a smart grid in order to deliver electricity to where it is needed. That is why clear direction is needed from the government on such issues and while the UK may not ever be a major contributor to global nuclear technology we still have the opportunity to be world leading in renewable/clean technology .

Also posted @ therenewablefuture.