Time for a Con-Lab pact on nuclear power?

The former Labour government, after years of prevarication, had finally come round to accepting the need for new nuclear capacity – at least to replace old capacity coming to the end of its life, and perhaps to increase the overall contribution of nuclear to the UK’s generating needs.

But today we have Chris Huhne, former Lib-Dem MEP and now, bizarrely, the Energy Secretary in the coalition, telling us that we need more wind power, and insisting there will be no public support for nuclear.

Conservatives who sacrificed their shoe-leather canvassing for Conservative candidates last May did not expect to end up with a green Lib-Dem zealot as Energy Secretary, and they did not do it to see a massive increase in wind farms across our green and pleasant land.  Huhne’s policies are untenable, and if he continues in this vein, his job will be untenable too.  The phrase “criminally insane” springs to mind.  Huhne may not be fiddling while Rome burns, but he is playing children’s games with wind-mills while Britain’s energy security is increasingly jeopardised.

In repeating his insistence that not a penny of public money should go to nuclear, Huhne omits to mention the vast subsidies that go to wind, in the form of Renewable Obligation Certificates – which unfairly bias the market for low-carbon generation in favour of wind and against nuclear.

In case you’ve forgotten the problems with wind, let’s summarise.  Ideally we need generating capacity which is continuous and predictable, like coal or gas or nuclear.  Tidal power is discontinuous, but it’s at least predictable.  Wind is the worst option – neither continuous nor predictable.  As some continental countries have found, increasing reliance on intermittent wind creates ultimately insuperable problems of grid management.  And distributed generation creates the need for new investment in the Grid of around £10 billion, over and above the cost of wind farms.

Wind requires constant back-up – conventional capacity fired up and ready to go (known as spinning reserve).  Maintaining this reserve means higher costs and higher CO2 emissions (and actually new conventional back-up capacity as well) – factors which wind advocates rarely take into account.  Indeed they often talk in terms of rated capacity and omit to mention that on-shore wind typically delivers only around a quarter of rated capacity.

The Labour government had ambitious plans for wind, which many industry commentators said were simply unachievable.  There isn’t the capacity to build and install new turbines at the rate envisaged.  I am not aware that Huhne has addressed this problem.

Even if Huhne’s plan could be achieved, it would saddle the UK with unreliable high-cost electricity, creating a huge competitive disadvantage for the UK compared, say, to France, which is 80% nuclear.

And he forgets the fact that wind-farms despoil our countryside, create well-documented health problems for unfortunate local residents who have these monsters dumped on their doorsteps, reduce property values, and blight communities and homes and lives.  What about localism, and our promises to pass more powers to local people?  What about the power to say NO to wind farms?

Many people in the Labour Party (including the leader of their MEPs Glenis Willmott) support nuclear power.  Most Conservatives I know support nuclear.  Maybe Conservative and Labour MPs should have a pact to put nuclear first.  Huhne needs to learn that being in coalition doesn’t give him the right to impose his ideological nonsense on the country at large.

This item first appeared on Conservative Home.

To listen to my podcast on this click here

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3 Responses to Time for a Con-Lab pact on nuclear power?

  1. fenbeagle says:

    Chris the Huhne. Changer of Climates.
    Builder of the rods of lightening. More numerous than the henge and Menhir builders of the British protectors of the secret of the Megalithic yard.
    Breaker of the winds.
    Who’s wands cover the lands of Britania, and, yay, even the tides of Canut.
    Slayer of Horus.
    Dazling in the rays of Aten. Denier even, unto Atom.
    Hewn from the very rock of Zeus, making the lands tremble with their thunder.
    …..And energy secretary.
    You think he might be overdoing things?

  2. That’s brilliant, fenbeagle! I’ll use it in my next (Sept) newsletter, if I may. “Chris Huhne, Breaker of wind!”. As someone said on ConHome, he should spend more time with his families.

  3. fenbeagle says:

    No problem mr Helmer
    If you wish to make use of any material from my ‘handy green renewable advice’, please do. Everyone should do their bit…


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