If the government wants to deliver a low-carbon economy at a low cost, it should invest in renewable energy rather than nuclear power, according to a new report by the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC).
Who are the National Infrastructure Commission?
The NIC was set up under former Chancellor, George Osbourne. It aims to provide the government with impartial, expert advice on major long-term infrastructure challenges.
They have just released the UK’s first National Infrastructure Assessment, which looks at how our infrastructure must adapt and evolve now and in the future.
What does the National Infrastructure Assessment say?
That investing in renewable energy is the most cost-effective option long-term, and that government should retract their support for more nuclear plants, at least for now, and redirect their funding to renewable energy sources.
Sir John Armitt, chairman at the NIC, said: “If we act now we have a golden opportunity to make our country greener, and protect the money in the pockets of consumers long into the future – something few of us expected to be able to do.
“Ministers can seize this chance by investing in renewables and other low-carbon technologies so they become the main players in our energy system – something that was considered a pipedream as little as a decade ago. But they need to act now to realise the full potential of what can be achieved.”
Will this mean higher energy bills for consumers?
Not according to the NIC. Their modelling suggests that if action is taken now to invest in low cost renewables, then our energy system could be decarbonised at no extra cost to the consumer.
According to their calculations, greater quantities of renewable power could be built for the same amount of money spent on the controversial new nuclear facility at Hinkley Point C.
The most cost-effective and mature renewable energy technologies – solar and on-shore wind – offer the potential to deliver greater capacity at lower cost, and the NIC recommends that these technologies are prioritised.
To ensure costs remain competitive, the NIC suggests that solar and on-sore wind compete in structured auctions with clear pipelines, dates and budgets.
What does the solar industry have to offer to installers?
The UK solar market is growing nicely in the UK; whereas in 2010 it was virtually non-existent, today it has capacity to power up to 3 million homes.
If the government did shift funding from nuclear to renewables, it would provide a further boost to the solar industry.
Solar PV, which converts sunlight into electricity, is an ideal choice for existing electricians and qualifications are available to top-up existing skills.
Solar Thermal, which harnesses heat from the sun is best suited to heating and plumbing installers.
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