The UK can meet its energy and climate change targets without the Hinkley Point C (HPC) nuclear power plant.
That’s according to the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), which claims there are alternatives to the proposed £18 billion project that are “cheaper, quicker and simpler”.
Its new report found a mixture of established technologies such as wind farms, interconnectors and gas-fired plants along with measures to manage demand would save the UK around £1 billion per year.
French utility EDF, which is financing the majority of the project, approved the investment at a board meeting last month however the new government made a surprise announcement to delay its final decision until autumn.
According to the ECIU report, the UK could bring as much electricity to the grid as Hinkley would generate by building three interconnectors or four big wind farms and reduce the average household bill by £10 to £20 a year.
In addition, it claims at least two fifths of Hinkley’s power could be negated by using energy more efficiently and cutting waste and 3.2GW of the nuclear plant’s peak demand could be supplied through demand side response or additional gas units, saving £16 billion in infrastructure costs.
The report’s findings have been backed by Paul Massara, former CEO of RWE npower and currently the head of North Star Solar.
He believes HPC is the “wrong solution” for the UK’s future energy needs: “Whatever your view of nuclear power, what’s so striking is just how expensive, unwieldy and complex Hinkley C is. That the UK is even considering investing so much money in an unproven design based on outmoded technology is staggering enough.
“But when energy markets are so clearly heading in an entirely different direction, it looks like madness to push ahead with Hinkley. Listen to any informed energy market insider and they will tell you that future grids will be smart, decentralised, flexibleand dominated by a mix of renewable energy, demand side and energy efficiency measures and storage.
“If that’s the case, then the question is very simple: what’s Hinkley for?”
If it goes ahead, Hinkley Point C is expected to deliver 7% of the UK’s electricity.
EDF believes the project will play a “crucial role” as part of a future, flexible energy system.
A spokesperson added: “Wind, gas, interconnection, energy storage, demand side response, efficiency measures and large scale nuclear generation will all be part of the ideal future energy mix for the UK. We must get the engineering and the economics right. The scenarios outlined in the ECIU report are not credible alternatives to Hinkley Point C.
“HPC’s cost is competitive with other large-scale low carbon technologies. It will generate electricity steadily even on foggy and still winter days across Northern Europe. It will play a crucial role as part of a future, flexible energy system.”