Tory MP Says Electric Cars Could Cause "Blackouts" Without More Nuclear Power
A Conservative MP has called for the Government to move "much faster" on increasing the UK's nuclear energy supply to prevent future "blackouts" as more heavy duty technology such as electric cars and heat pumps are connected to the grid.
Virginia Crosbie, Conservative MP for Ynys Môn, and Vice Chair and Secretary to the Nuclear Energy APPG told PoliticsHome she believed the country was at risk of power cuts if the UK did not build enough nuclear power stations.
Crosbie spoke to PoliticsHome as Nuclear Week kicked off in Parliament, where events are hosted by MPs and industry stakeholders on the future of energy, new technology and nuclear's role in Britain's transition to Net Zero.
She said construction projects such as Hinkley Point C in Somerset needed to be completed more swiftly, and that government should approve new nuclear projects "every two or three years". It is expected that only one of Britain's six exisiting nuclear plants will be in operation by 2030.
“If we don’t built 24 GW [gigawatt] of nuclear, we are risking blackouts as we connect electric cars, heat pumps, electric arc furnaces and all sorts of other new technologies to the grid," Crosby claimed.
"We need more power, and we cannot replace what nuclear provides: reliable, clean, British electricity. If we try to fill the hole with wind, solar and batteries and no nuclear, our bills will be higher and our power much less reliable.
“The benefits to Britain of a big nuclear build out are lower bills, energy security, net zero and jobs for the people who need them. More nuclear means less imported gas, and less imported gas means lower bills and cutting out the Kremlin."
Over the last 13 years, Britain has closed 26 power stations and reduced its energy capacity by 20 per cent. By the end of the decade, 35 per cent of Britain’s current generation capacity will dry up, according to French renewable energy giant EDF.
Power plants Heysham 1, North West, and Hartlepool, County Durham, are set to close by 2026. Heysham 2, also in the North West, and Torness, Scotland, are expected to be decommissioned by 2028, with the option of being extended by two years.
The UK will have a maximum of three nuclear power plants in operation during the winter of 2026. Sizewell B, which was connected to the National Grid in 1995, will be Britain’s only existing power station in operation during the next decade.
Nuclear power currently provides 15 per cent of Britain’s electricity, according to a House of Commons report. Government ministers want to increase this to 25 per cent by 2050.
New power plants Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C are expected to be producing energy by 2027 and 2034 respectively.
Hinkley Point C has already been beset by delays, after its expected start date was 2017. Meanwhile, experts believe Sizewell C could cost the Government almost double the projected cost, according to research by the Guardian.
Crosbie told PoliticsHome she believed Britain needs to start speeding up building Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C. However, even when both plants start producing energy, Britain will only generate the same amount of nuclear power it did in 1983.
“We do need to move much faster to get projects approved. It’s been seven years since Hinkley Point C got the go-ahead, and that’s far too long to wait,” Crosbie told PoliticsHome.
“We need to be approving new projects every two or three years, so we get enough power to run this country and the jobs that go with it.”
Tom Greatrex, Chief Executive of Nuclear Industry Association, told PoliticsHome Britain could not afford to delay building more nuclear power plants.
“The time it has taken to start building [Hinkley Point C] has been far too long. And we have to learn the lessons from that," he explained.
“We haven’t got the luxury of sitting around waiting for something to turn up. Nuclear plays an integral part in having enough electricity to have a decarbonised economy in a way that is secure.”
Nuclear energy is seen by many as integral to UK's future energy security, particularly after oil and gas prices surged since the war in Ukraine.
The energy price shock plunged Britain into its worst energy crisis since the 1973 Iranian Oil embargo, according to a UK Parliament report.
A new fleet of nuclear power stations could increase Britain’s base load production and make the country less reliant on international competitors.
Jack Richardson, Head of Energy and Environment at Onward, a centre-right think tank, told PoliticsHome he believed the Government has the "political will" to build more plants across the country.
"We need to electrify more of the economy – particularly heat and transport – given the maturity of the North Sea gas basin. Otherwise, we will increasingly rely on expensive, volatile international gas markets, the worst-case scenario for households," he added.
"Reversing the decades-long malaise in UK nuclear power is tougher than many people think. The Government has the political will and support to build them – hopefully it delivers.”
PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe