The UK government announced this week the first ever carbon budget to cut emissions by 34% from 1990 levels by 2020. Electricity generated from renewables will go up from 9% to 31%.
Electricity generation is the biggest factor in our carbon footprint and it is essential to generate clean electricity in order to decarbonise the economy.
The disappointing element in the carbon budget is that the share of electricity generated by nuclear power comes down from 13% (at present) to 8% (forecast for 2020). From 2020 onwards it is expected that the share will go up with new nuclear plants being built which are now at a planning/drawing board stage.
Britain is rich in resources for wind and tidal energy generation. These are expensive to implement and notoriously unreliable and are unlikely to meet the UK's escalating demands in the next decades, as more household power demand is switched from gas to electricity and combustion motor vehicles gradually phased out in favour of EVs. In view of this, it is essential that all efforts are made to generate electricity in the cleanest possible way.
CSS is an exciting possibility and it's encouraging that developed countries are investing heavily on research to implement this technology (yet untried and untested on a commercial basis). When and if CSS is a reality, it will be the environmentalist's holy grail because we do have coal by the truckload to see to our energy needs for the next century, and so do China and India, who would greatly benefit from retrofitting their coal-fired stations.
However our surest bet at the moment in order to supply reliable and zero carbon electricty at a scale that we can comfortably predict we will meet all future demand is nuclear power. Our capacity to generate electricity with nuclear energy must be dealt with urgently and the process of planning and building of nuclear stations should be accelerated as a matter of urgency. It is absurb to sit on our hands for over a decade until 2020 while our nuclear capacity is steadily eroded.
A dramatic increase of nuclear capacity can single-handedly deliver a 57% reduction of emissions by 2020, thus comfortably offsetting other emissions such as aviation.
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