Wednesday, 18 November 2020
Green deal Boris Boosterism fails to make power choices
Letter submitted to The Financial Times: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, writing from inside his isolated bunker at Downing Street, seems to be more out of touch with reality than normal (“Now is the time to plan Britain’s green recovery,” Opinion, November 18). His mish-mash of ideas on greening the UK economy is not a plan in any thought out m way, as he has not recognised that in energy/electricity systems planning, you just cannot have a bit of everything on offer. The physical systems require very careful integration. Thus, he asserts he wants lots more offshore wind (point one; and more large and small scale nuclear (point 3). This won’t work, especially if the aim is to set in place a long term strategy for power generation to ensure the UK meets is carbon emission reduction target of net zero by 2050. The main exigency he fails to understand is the more nuclear is deployed, recent empirical evidence shows it crowds out the deployment of wind, solar and potentially tidal power. In early October, two experience energy academics at the University of Sussex, by Professor Benjamin K. Sovacool and Professor Andy Stirling, published detailed analytic paper “Differences in carbon emissions reduction between countries pursuing renewable electricity versus nuclear power” in Nature Energy. (https://socialsciences.nature.com/posts/the-sustainability-of-nuclear-power-and-the-critical-importance-of-independent-research) Their paper focuses specifically on situations in which real-world constraints mean strategic choices must be made on resource allocation between nuclear or renewables-based electricity, and explores this dilemma retrospectively, by, they stress “examining past patterns in the attachments (i.e. investments) of different countries to nuclear or renewable strategies.” They conclude, inter alia, that countries with a greater attachment to nuclear will tend to have a lesser attachment to renewables, and vice versa. They strongly assert: “Put plainly – if countries want to lower emissions as substantially, rapidly and cost-effectively as possible, they should prioritise support for renewables rather than nuclear power. Pursuit of nuclear strategies risks taking up resources that could be used more effectively and suppressing the uptake of renewable energy.” And end up stressing their belief that their analysis is “the organised skepticism of independent science.” This is something sadly lacking in the Prime Minister’s boosterism for a bit of everything. Mr Johnson holds the top job. He needs to make choices.