Sizewell C project will help UK “keep sight of sustainability target and reduce affordability issues”
The Sizewell C Project development near Norwich was given the go-ahead by the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy this week. Professor Michael Tamvakis, Professor of Commodity Economics and Finance at Bayes Business School (formerly Cass) said the £20 billion project represented a step forward for energy supply and reliability, at least in the longer-term – but called on more to be done to build broader range of energy options.
Professor Tamvakis said:
“Nuclear power is reliable, secure and carbon neutral – ideal for supporting a system that requires large amounts of electricity most of the time, such as large industrial installations and commercial buildings.
“Once the plant is operational, there will be two key benefits. Firstly, nuclear is ideal for baseload generation, providing an extra layer in the generation mix which can release some of the gas used now to be used for either heating, peakload generation or simply reducing gas demand. When the station starts producing, electricity is carbon-free and will help achieve the Net Zero target.
“On the other hand, nuclear projects have huge initial capital expenditure and typically require governments to guarantee their income. Although it is technically possible to vary the amount of electricity generated, nuclear plants prefer to produce the same amount of electricity all the time and are slow to shut down and start up again. This makes it inflexible and less compatible with intermittent renewables.
“There are also obvious issues of safety in handling fissile material during generation.
Professor Tamvakis also called upon authorities to maintain a healthy mix of alternatives to reduce reliance on one or few sources.
“Rapid progression towards Net Zero cannot be done without involving many more sources of generation, depending on each country's resources. Nuclear should be part of the mix, as should renewables including wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, tidal and others.
“Most renewable generation in the UK comes from wind. This is set to expand but is intermittent and still has a lot of unpredictability.
“Natural gas filled a particular gap in UK generation because it was price-competitive, less polluting than coal, domestically available and could be used to generate baseload electricity. It was also available around the clock as opposed to wind and solar.
“This arrangement eliminated the main carbon culprit – coal – but it is not viable any longer.
“Electricity needs to be affordable, secure and sustainable, and we are struggling with all three aspects at the moment.
“We need to address security by strengthening the generation portfolio and adding nuclear along with other renewables. This will help the UK keep sight of its sustainability target, while at the same time removing some of the affordability issues which currently affect both electricity and heating prices.
“Sizewell C is a move in the right direction, which will hopefully reduce dependence on natural gas for electricity generation and release it instead to be used for heating.
“The next challenges are to start investing in alternatives for space heating and accelerate the move towards electric vehicles in order to reduce dependence on oil products. For the latter, expanding our generation portfolio is the right thing to do because more electricity will be used for transportation.”