Scale back investment in wind, EDF and EON tell Miliband

Posted by jossc — 17 March 2009 at 3:54pm - Comments

offshore wind at work

Prepare to be unsurprised. Very unsurprised. Those lovable energy giants EDF and E.ON have put their collective boots into government plans to generate 35 per cent of our electricity from renewable sources.

According to their submissions to the latest energy consultation, the figure is not only unrealistic but also damaging to alternative schemes such as nuclear plants. So damaging that, um, they may be forced to drop their plans to build a new generation of nuclear power plants in the UK unless the government scales back its targets for wind power.

Why exactly? Well, according to EDF "The deployment of high levels of intermittent renewables for electricity generation will require the construction of additional carbon-emitting plant as back-up for when renewables are not available to meet demand." Instead they recommend that "A 25 per cent electricity target [from non-carbon emitting sources] will provide the best platform for further decarbonisation of electricity generation in the period beyond 2020, through a combination of further renewables, new nuclear and coal and gas with carbon capture and storage."

Essentially their argument is that we can't produce 35 percent of our electricity from renewables without such high levels of investment that there won't be enough left for nuclear. Which, given the huge historic discrepancy between the vast sums pumped into the nuclear industry and the relative pittance allocated to developing renewable energy, is a bit rich to say the least.

What they are really doing, of course, is trying to hold the government to ransom. Put bluntly, it's a 'Do as we say or you won't get your nuclear plants, ok?' type deal, with the clear implication being that unless Gordon Brown slashes our targets for renewables in favour of nuclear, they will pull the plug.

So how accurate is their analysis? Not so hot, as our Head of energy solutions, Nathan Argent explains:

"We've always said that nuclear power will undermine renewable energy and will damage the UK's efforts to tackle climate change – now EDF agrees."

"The National Grid shows that there is capacity to take well over 30 per cent per cent of our electricity from renewables. EDF are trying to block efforts to deliver on the most important technology to the UK to tackle climate change and keep the light on in order to protect their own vested nuclear interests."

And Friends of the Earth boss Andy Atkins agrees: "The UK is the windiest country in Europe with the best wave and tidal resources. We should be maximising renewables and harnessing as much of that clean, safe energy as we possibly can – not propping up the French nuclear industry."

"Nuclear power is no green alternative – it leaves a legacy of deadly radioactive waste that remains dangerous for tens of thousands of years. And nuclear power plants simply cannot be built in time to deliver the cuts in carbon dioxide emissions that science says are needed."

E.ON, meanwhile, are insisting that it would be wrong to interpret their submission as an attempt to dismiss wind power completely. Which maybe technically true, but they certainly want to downgrade their involvement in wind for the greater profits that nuclear can generate for them. Here's hoping that Ed Miliband has the guts to tell them that 35 per cent electricity generation from renewable sources is achievable, desirable, and what's more, that it's the figure he's going to be sticking with.

About Joss

Bass player and backing vox in the four piece beat combo that is the UK Greenpeace Web Experience. In my 6 years here I've worked on almost every campaign and been fascinated by them all to varying degrees. Just now I'm working on Peace and Oceans - which means getting rid of our Trident nuclear weapons system and creating large marine reserves so that marine life can get some protection from overfishing.

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