Argument: Renewables can meet all future energy needs, nuclear unnecessary

Issue Report: Nuclear energy


“The case against nuclear power”. Greenpeace. January 8, 2008 – “There are now dozens of studies, including many by government, engineering consultants, eminent academics and energy industry bodies all showing how this scale of electricity generation could be met through energy efficiency, cleaner use of fossil fuels, renewables and state of the art decentralised power stations like they have in Scandinavia. A sizable portion of the ‘gap’ could be closed through energy efficiency alone – delivering a substantial economic savings at the same time. Government figures show that there is the potential to save over 30% of all energy (not just electricity) used in the UK solely through efficiency measures that would also save more money than they cost to implement. Government puts the total saving for consumers for this level of efficiency improvement at £12 billion.iii There are several government and industry figures published for the potential contribution from marine power – electricity harnessed from waves and tides. A conservative view based on these, including one of the government’s own studies into what could be achieved economically by 2020, suggests that 12% of UK electricity – or 1/3 of the so called ‘energy gap’ – could be met by marine power.iv According to the government, there is the potential in the UK by 2015 to generate 25% of our electricity using Combined Heat and Power.v CHP is a super-efficient way of generating electricity and using the subsequent heat that is otherwise wasted. Combined Heat and Power stations can mix efficient use of gas and coal with other types of cleaner fuels such as woodchip, straw or biogas, further reducing any reliance on gas. John Hutton has also promised 33 gigawatts of offshore wind.”

…[Myth:] ‘We need baseload, and renewables can’t supply that.’ We also need what’s known as baseload – guaranteed electricity to meet constant demand – and Britain can generate it with low-carbon technologies like CHP and some renewable technologies like tidal, biomass, biogas and hydro. More efficient use of fossil fuels also has a part to play.”

“Spain Says Has Power To Spare, Can Phase Out Nukes.” Planet Ark. September 29, 2009: “MADRID – Spain’s top energy official said on Monday the country had enough spare generating capacity to phase out nuclear power stations in the medium term, in line with government policy.

In recent years, Spain has subsidized renewable energy in order to cut its heavy dependence on fuel imports and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is now the world’s third-biggest producer of wind power and the second-biggest of solar.

Nuclear power is unpopular in Spain and both major political parties ruled out building new plants in last year’s elections.

“Investing in nuclear energy makes sense when there are problems in ensuring supply. In ’99 or 2000 that was the case with our energy margin,” Energy Secretary Pedro Marin told a conference on energy policy.

“We now have substantial spare generation capacity, a very broad demand structure, without any problem,” he added.

Spain has an installed generating capacity of some 90,000 megawatts and record demand of 43,000 MW, and has been a net exporter of power for several years.

A Citibank research note last week estimated Spanish electricity demand would grow by a slow 2 percent a year as of 2011, and power prices would be depressed for years by more renewables production and additional gas supplies.”

Noelle Straub and Peter Behr. “Will the US ever need to build another coal or nuclear plant?” Scientific American. April 22, 2009: “No new nuclear or coal plants may ever be needed in the United States, the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said today.

“We may not need any, ever,” Jon Wellinghoff told reporters at a U.S. Energy Association forum.

The FERC chairman’s comments go beyond those of other Obama administration officials, who have strongly endorsed greater efficiency and renewables deployment but also say nuclear and fossil energies will continue playing a major role.

Wellinghoff’s view also goes beyond the consensus outlook in the electric power industry about future sources of electricity. The industry has assumed that more baseload generation would provide part of an increasing demand for power, along with a rapid deployment of renewable generation, smart grid technologies and demand reduction strategies.”