More renewables could mean no nuclear needed to meet carbon targets

Research and analysis firm Cornwall Insight has claimed that the UK could meet its fourth and fifth carbon budgets without using nuclear power if the renewables policy is ramped up, and quickly.

Believing beforehand that nuclear power plants were crucial to meet the country’s carbon targets, continued improvements in the development and operation of established renewables has proven them to be increasingly cost-effective. Renewables such as wind and solar could effectively replace what nuclear power provides and at a lower cost.

In November 2018, Toshiba scrapped plans for a new nuclear facility in Cumbria after failing to find a buyer for their NuGen subsidiary. Similarly, EDF has seen a struggle in demand as their Hinkley Point C reactor has had a string of developers pull out of projects citing deteriorating market conditions.

Consequently, energy secretary Greg Clark claimed that a “substantial pipeline” of renewables could fill gaps left by the Moorside project collapse.

Ben Hall, head of new business at Cornwall Insight has said “Despite the falling costs of solar PV, onshore and offshore wind and other low-carbon technologies, deployment may still need some form of support above and beyond the power markets. Captured wholesale prices for renewable projects will fall relative to baseload prices, leading to lower revenues because of what is commonly termed power price cannibalisation.

From our modelling it is also evident that the combination of Capacity Market de-rating factors for renewables and projected clearing prices - even if they rise - is not going to be enough to encourage significant new-build merchant renewables”.

Mirroring Hall’s words, the Committee on Climate Change in early May recommended that the UK establish a 2015 net zero target, but only if willing to follow through on the necessary policy framework.