Are you looking for an expert opinion on the UK Government's recent energy White Paper? Perhaps a quote for an article you are writing or a live studio interview?
The DTI's White Paper on energy, Meeting the Energy Challenge, outlines the UK Government’s domestic and international strategy. Not unrelated, in the same week, the Communities and Local Governments announced its forthcoming White Paper on planning that will seek reforms on planning decisions for major infrastructure decisions such as transport, water, waste and energy.
Key to all of this is understanding what is in the national interest. The planning White Paper will seek to ensure, rightly or wrong, that national interests over-ride those of local issues. For example, if it is decided that building new nuclear power stations is in the national interest, then this will be done regardless of local opposition. Why is this necessary? Well, how many of us really would choose to live next door to a nuclear energy power station? But, on the other hand, how many of us would complain if the lights did go off or the impacts of climate change – flooding, health impacts, etc – worsened? On the flip side, however, energy planning changes are not only related to nuclear: people at a local level also object to wind farms, biofuel plants, tidal barrages as well as nuclear plants. The key will be for the process for establishing ‘national interest’ to be transparent and robust, otherwise it will be open to complaints of being politically corrupt and unjust.
So, where does Article 13 stand on the issue of nuclear energy? We see the development of new nuclear power stations as being a short-term solution, something that is worth considering as an energy source for the next 30 years. However, the nuclear option needs very high standards to ensure public confidence. Despite what the Government said in the Energy White Paper on skills in the nuclear industry, there will be a lot of new players attracted to this area with limited experience of managing nuclear industry issues. In addition, by making this an economic decision for industry it becomes more subject to market forces and associated short term pressures. The regulator will need to ensure that safety remains the first priority.
But a long term strategy for energy supply should be developed simultaneously. This should take us into the future, beyond 2050. It should be a combination of clean and green fuel sources, for example wind, wave, geothermal and solar. Granted that it will take a while for enough renewable energy to come on-line, what should we do in the mean time? Hence the nuclear or clean coal option. However, a key question is how will this be funded? If government support is required, this might not happen. So where will this leave us?
Jane Fiona Cumming
71a The Grove, London W5 5LL
Phone: 020 8840 4450