Decision time on clean recovery and net zero
We’re already seeing the huge economic boost the construction of Hinkley Point C is bringing to the South-West, showing us a comprehensive programme of similar projects, followed by the development of small and advanced nuclear technologies, would bring huge investment and skilled jobs to every nation and region of the United Kingdom, says Tom Greatrex | Credit: PA Images
Getting to net zero isn’t just a legal requirement, but a profound responsibility to future generations.
Building back better may be the soundbite of the week, but in truth, behind it sits a stark reality - and rarely does such an opportunity present itself to a country’s decisionmakers.
While Covid-19 has seen most aspects of everyday life re-evaluated and our public services pushed to their limits, our electricity system has faced a slightly different problem – having to manage record low demand whilst having an increasingly variable supply of power.
While this has indeed facilitated yet another coal-free record to be set in the UK, on some days we had three quarters of power from low carbon sources and others where three quarters was generated from burning fossil fuels.
Making out that a few days in May when it was simultaneously sunny, windy and the economy all but shut down is a blueprint for decarbonisation is analysis that’s as deep as a puddle.
The new drive to “build build build” will need to be matched with “jobs jobs jobs”.
While ways of working may change fundamentally, the requirement for electricity for homes, businesses and public services will continue to grow.
Economic stimulus to power the recovery will require both drive and ambition, and means firmly establishing the UK as a centre of excellence for advanced manufacturing, forging green industrial hubs, and futureproofing our economy. Most crucially, this must all be entirely powered by clean energy sources if our net zero target is to be more than an aspiration.
Last week, Parliament received its annual progress report from the Committee on Climate Change, which once again affirmed that nuclear, alongside renewables, will be required in order to reach net zero.
In addition, the Energy Systems Catapult has carried out further analysis into the future role of nuclear power using their highly sophisticated, peer-reviewed energy system modelling tool, and concluded that to exclude nuclear from the mix is not only extremely expensive, but would use up vast amounts of land, and puts any likelihood of the UK reaching net zero at unnecessary risk.
Furthermore, the new drive to “build build build” will need to be matched with “jobs jobs jobs”.
The nuclear sector already contributes significantly in this area, however the NIA’s latest report Forty by ’50: The Nuclear Roadmap highlights the additional future benefits nuclear power has to offer as we head to net zero.
Nuclear power currently provides around 40% of our low carbon electricity supply.
By maintaining this share in the future energy mix, and capitalising on the potential for next generation nuclear to provide heat and hydrogen, the report conservatively estimates such an industry would be one worth over £33bn in Gross Value Added to the economy every year, creating over 300,000 job opportunities.
We’re already seeing the huge economic boost the construction of Hinkley Point C is bringing to the South-West, showing us a comprehensive programme of similar projects, followed by the development of small and advanced nuclear technologies, would bring huge investment and skilled jobs to every nation and region of the United Kingdom.
Building this next generation of infrastructure will be no easy task, and the roadmap highlights six key areas where Government and industry can work together to make it a reality.
Getting to net zero isn’t just a legal requirement, but a profound responsibility to future generations, and rarely does such an opportunity present itself for a country’s decision makers to demonstrate commitment by matching inspiring words with meaningful – and urgent – action