This chart shows why George Monbiot, Mark Lynas and Stephen Tinsdale have all plumped for the wrong choice – new Nuclear Power cannot deliver more electricity or reduce carbon dioxide emissions for us at the time when we need it most – the next few years :-
0. Massive energy conservation drives – for demand management – are clearly essential, given the reduction in UK generation.
1. It is impossible to increase new Nuclear Power capacity in less than ten years, but total UK generation is falling now, so now and in the next few years is the timeframe in which to add capacity. We cannot go on relying on Nuclear Power imports from France – especially given the rate of power outages there.
2. The fastest growing generation sources over the next few years will be Wind Power, Solar Power and Renewable Gas – if we set the right policies at the government and regulator levels.
3. The combination of Nuclear Power and Hydro Power is not going to vary much over the next ten years – the blips you see are Nuclear Power plants being taken off-line because of planned or unplanned outages, and then being put back in service.
4. Besides massive energy conservation drives, the best way to add more spare generation capacity whilst closing the “coal gap” (the grey section in the middle that must reduce because of our emissions reduction commitments) is to set up Renewable Gas production processes. These could produce Renewable Gas from a range of different feedstocks, and following methanation and “washing” to get the gas up to normal quality, it could be used directly for burning in existing gas-fired power stations. And then we should build a few more gas-fired power stations – which can be done in a matter of a couple of years. New Renewable Gas power stations needn’t be centralised, with the Renewable Gas piped to them along the existing gas grid – they could be highly de-centralised, near the Renewable Gas production facilities – every town could have one.
5. We don’t need to build new large centralised coal-burning or Nuclear Power plants. Instead, we need to build local Renewable Gas production infrastructure near useful feedstocks. Renewable Gas can be produced by a variety of means and have a variety of compositions – most people have heard of Anaerobic Digestion, but techniques such as gasification can supplement useful synthetic gases.
6. Shale Gas is not going to be able to provide a reliable or significant supply of gas to the grid, despite the “game changer” hype in the media. It simply does not figure yet, and the wells deplete quickly, so total overall contribution will remain small.
7. Carbon Capture and Storage will not be generally available for several decades – so it would be foolish to build coal-fired power stations now.