Time for nuclear power. Lots of it.

Sometimes I wish the Conservative Party would get off the fence on Nuclear Energy and face up to the reality, which is that this Labour government will leave us a legacy of energy insecurity, and quite possibly of brown-outs, rolling power cuts and a three-day week.
Labour is planning to get something like 35% of our electricity from wind by 2020.  Whatever view you take about the potential and efficiency of wind, Labour’s building and installation programme is hopelessly unrealistic.  It just cannot be done in the time.  Even if it were done, they are not building the back-up conventional capacity that will be needed on days when the wind doesn’t blow.  Moreover if the share of wind ever got beyond 10%, they would discover that managing the grid with a major, intermittent and unpredictable energy supply presents insurmountable problems.
Even if we were successful in delivering the wind power that Labour plans, we should have created a competitive headlock for British industry, which would be buying electricity at up to three times the price of French competitors, with their access to nuclear energy.
And then Labour has signed up to the EU’s Large Combustion Plant Directive, which will require the closure of half a dozen major coal-fired power stations by 2015 — just as the energy crunch starts to bite.  I have a dream that the next Conservative government might look into the abyss of electricity shortages and quietly abrogate the Directive.
Many of us are pinning our hopes for a green future on electric vehicles, but it seems that no one has asked where the electricity to power our cars will come from.  If we do move to an electric future in transportation, the need for serious mainstream power generation will become all the more urgent.
But however you choose to cut the energy conundrum, we need more mainstream, base-load conventional capacity, if we want to keep the wheels of industry turning.  And that capacity must not be based on imported fossil fuels from politically unstable areas of the world, like Russia or Venezuela or the Middle East.   In my view, that means we need coal and nuclear.  And if the Greens are determined to avoid coal, it’s just nuclear.
So I am disappointed when Conservative Party spokesmen (naming no names) make grudging noises about accepting more nuclear if we must, and always with the qualification “but not a penny of public subsidy”.  As a Conservative, I am instinctively opposed to subsidies.  But why don’t we apply the same condition to wind?  Through “Renewable Obligation Certificates” we are already subsidising wind massively.  Close to half the income of a wind farm comes from subsidy.   It is true to say that without subsidies, not a single wind-farm would have been built in Britain.  Not a single village would be cowering in the shadow of vast alien turbines.
We are subsidising a hugely inefficient generation technology, wind, which cannot make sense in either environmental or economic terms, and which blights homes and landscapes and communities, while refusing to subsidise a proven, mainstream base-load generating technology.  I’m not arguing for subsidy, but for consistency.  If our policy is not to subsidise power generation, let that rule apply to wind as well.

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3 Responses to Time for nuclear power. Lots of it.

  1. Chris says:

    What you say, Mr Helmer, is self evidently correct. Yet all three of the mainstream parties offer us no alternatives to Wind Factories, whatever the costs, and however much they are objected too. Its clear, that whatever party gets in at the next election, Wind Factories will continue to be built, (and with subsidies.) None of the Mainstream parties will even accept the need for sensible site distances from peoples homes, despite the many concerns and reports, World wide, suggesting they should. Health concerns, are simply denied, and other issues played down. Indeed objecting to them, is seen as troublesome….Anti Social, even, (by the Labour party,) if not by other parties. As a Conservative minister, what would you advise members of the public, that do not have your influence, to do about this situation. I understand, that in Denmark, householders are compensated for any loss of value to their home, that can be proven to have been caused by Wind Turbines, thus at least allowing residents to move away, should they feel a need to. Even this incomplete, but fairer answer, to the problem, is not part of any party policy, at present. If I voted for the Conservative party at the next election, I would be voting for a Party, that I disagree with….simply in order to remove from office a party that I find Dangerously Disagreeable.

  2. Roger Helmer says:

    Hi Chris! I wish I could say that you were wrong, and that a Conservative government would scrap this wind nonsense. I can’t do that. But I can say that the Conservative Party would oppose wind farm planning applications on inappropriate sites, whereas Labour is rumoured to be planning to withdraw planning power on wind farms from local authorities, in favour of a blanket approval system from Whitehall.

  3. Chris says:

    hi Roger
    Thank you for your reassurances, as to the Conservatives view on planning applications. What is the Conservative position, however, with regard to onshore Windfarms, that exceed 50mw in capacity. Which, I believe are not currantly subject to planning requirements? Is it the intention of an elected Conservative goverment to continue with this practise? A practise that simply encourages the building of more Windturbines, in one place, in the hope of fast tracking the development through. And this, it would seem, regardless of the actual loading figures that these oversize developments could hope to produce?

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