The government must commit to developing more nuclear capacity if the UK is to cope with the expected doubling of electricity demand by 2050, a new report has found.
According to the Centre for Policy Studies, failure to invest in new nuclear power could see the UK forced to choose between hitting its net zero targets and keeping the lights on.
With seven of the country’s eight power plants set to close by 2030, it warns that the UK is on the way to losing significant quantities of stable net-zero power.
Building just one more plant, it argues, could greatly increase the country’s energy security and drive down dependence on fossil fuels.
The report also argued that the government should consider novel financing schemes in order to fund the development of new plants.
Eamonn Ives, the author of the report, said: “It is critical that Britain replaces its fossil-fuelled energy generation with zero-carbon methods, such as new nuclear.
“To leverage fresh investment into Net Zero energy infrastructure, the Government should explore new financing models, while also remembering to protect taxpayers and consumers.”
Despite the vast growth of renewables capacity over the last decade, wind and solar provided less than 20 per cent of daily electricity demand on 82 separate occasions in 2020.
As a result of their intermittent nature – meaning that if the wind doesn’t blow no power is generated, for example – such sources cannot always be relied upon to provide energy, which can lead to fossil fuels being employed to make up the shortfall.
But last month the government’s climate advisers said that the country would need to develop eight gigawatts of new nuclear power by 2035 in order to hit its climate targets.
At the moment, the government is building just one new power plant, Hinkley Point C in Somerset, to replace the seven being decommissioned.
Ministers are also in talks with French giant EDF over taking a stake in Sizewell C in Suffolk, which is currently in the development stage.
Between them the two plants would provide over six gigawatts of power.
Simone Rossi, EDF’s UK CEO, said: “Nuclear is the only proven technology we have right now to support the massive development of renewables necessary in our Net Zero.
“Sizewell C will create thousands of jobs across the UK and deliver reliable, low-carbon electricity to millions of homes. Continued good progress on the funding model is key to ensuring value for money from new nuclear.”