Government says renewables ‘cannot ensure security of supply’ – we tell them they are wrong!

In an answer to a Parliamentary Question posed by Caroline Lucas MP the Government has said that the reason it has not modeled a ‘renewable only scenario  (e.g. wind, solar, and tidal) as this cannot ensure security of supply’.

This arrogant dismissal of the possibilities for 100 percent renewables is contrary to an increasing number of studies, including our own, published earlier this year. In fact, our own study, prepared for us by modelers from LUT University in Finland, said that a renewables-only pathway for the UK will save over £100 billion compared to the Government’s own preferred pathway.

You can see more information about our report HERE. You can also see a youtube recording of our Conference (held in April) on 100percent renewables HERE.

It is very clear that serious research needs to be done into modelling 100 per cent renewable energy for the UK. This is especially crucial given the increasing likelihood that the nuclear power construction programme will flounder, and carbon capture and storage systems will also fail to deliver in practice. Our study presents several energy system transition pathways to 100% renewable energy in 2050 in the UK in full detail from the starting point of today in five-year time steps until 2050.

The results indicate that a 100% renewable energy system for the UK is technically feasible and economically more viable than the current policy strategy. There are plausible arguments to suggest that, with inter-annual storage, it is also more reliable than the Government’s strategy. The highest cost projections among the zero CO2 emission options are related to a dedicated nuclear power expansion.

The study was conservative in that it assumed substantial increases in motor vehicle use and also an expansion in air transport. Certainly, using lower projections of these two transport modes the requirements for renewable energy production would be lower – and even lower if advances in battery technology led to the widespread use of battery-powered aircraft. On top of that the study assumed that no further increases in nuclear costs (based on Hinkley C costs) would occur beyond the estimates published in 2020. Yet clearly the costs of new nuclear power are going up, up and up!

By David Toke

Pasted below is the text of the questions posed by Caroline Lucas and the answers:

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, what analysis his Department has undertaken of the comparative cost to consumers of (a) an electricity system with nuclear as part of the energy mix and (b) a system based on variable renewables alone; and if he will place a copy of this assessment in the House of Commons Library. (184799)

Tabled on: 12 May 2023

Amanda Solloway:

The “Modelling 2050 – Electricity System Analysis” publication,[1]presents aggregated outputs for thousands of power sector scenarios in 2050 and shows that a range of different technology mixes can achieve Net Zero at similar costs (Figure 11). This work did not look at a renewable only scenario (e.g. wind, solar, and tidal) as this cannot ensure security of supply.


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