The UK must embrace nuclear power, despite costs and controversy, to meet its net zero carbon target by 2050, Britain’s largest business lobby has claimed.
Nuclear power will have an “important role” in delivering a low carbon economy “at the right price,” the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said Friday in a letter to business and energy secretary Greg Clark.
Britain will need to invest in both large-scale nuclear projects and innovative nuclear technologies, including Small Modular Reactors, or “mini-nukes,” the CBI has said.
Britain currently has 15 nuclear power stations, providing around 20% of its electricity. However, around half of this capacity is expected to be retired by 2025, and development of the next generation of reactors has been troubled.
Construction began Friday on EDF’s long-planned Hinkley Point C nuclear project. It’s expected to supply 7% of Britain’s’ electricity by 2025, but at a cost of £20 billion, it’s been slated as “risky and expensive” by the National Audit Office.
Meanwhile, plans for further nuclear projects have foundered, with the government struggling to reach funding deals with developers. In November, Toshiba pulled out of a planned nuclear power station in Cumbria and in January Hitachi scrapped plans for a £16 billion plant in Wylfa, Wales.
The CBI’s recommendations go beyond nuclear, however, and it has also urged the government to scale up carbon capture infrastructure and build more electric vehicle charging points.
The government recently committed £26 million to support nine new carbon capture projects, to block and store emissions before they reach the atmosphere.
The government should also “unblock” the development of onshore wind farms, warning that “hindering the continued deployment of the cheapest form of renewable electricity is hampering the goal of decarbonising at the lowest cost,” the CBI said.
Currently onshore wind farms cannot compete for government subsidies, a policy the renewable energy sector has called an effective ban. Tory ministers have been reluctant to shift the policy, citing manifesto commitments and a voter base wary of onshore wind farms.
Decarbonising the economy will require cooperation by business, politicians, and the public, the CBI has said.
It has urged the government to include these recommended policies, which also include business and consumer incentives for electric vehicles and tax rates which promote green energy, in the energy white paper expected later this year.
The letter came a day after Britain’s target to cut emissions to net zero by 2050 became law.
“Business is right behind the need for the UK to have a net-zero economy by 2050 and build on our global leadership in cutting greenhouse gas emissions,” said Rain Newton-Smith, CBI’s chief economist.
“Firms want to see a whole host of stable, long-term policies enacted – from building new nuclear power stations to scaling-up carbon capture and storage technology and infrastructure – that send markets a robust signal: the UK is open for green business, and is a world leader in tackling climate change,” he added.