The NIA's Chairman, Dr Tim Stone, reflects on a year like no other for energy in the UK
2022 has been a year like no other in the world of energy, with its price and availability becoming dominant features of our daily lives in a way they have not been for decades. As an industry we have long understood the need for a secure and sovereign energy supply, and nuclear’s unique role in achieving it. Now, for the first time, the government and the public are beginning to realise it too.
Energy independence has never been so critical, and this year we learned the hard way. Russia’s energy war following its devastating invasion of Ukraine, drove up power prices to levels never seen before, leaving us vulnerable to volatile gas markets, and laying bare what analysts had been predicting for years.
It is, though, never too late to act, and that it what happened. The vision of Great British Nuclear set out by the Government in its Energy Security Strategy could, if done properly, signal the start of a new atomic age for Britain. Having a clear, ambitious set of targets is a good place to start, so we can replace the Hunterstons and Hinkley Bs of this world, two of our country’s most effective clean energy assets which came offline this year after more than nine decades of combined service.
That work is already starting to happen. The Government’s intention to financially back Sizewell C is a big vote of confidence, which should be the first step in delivering a fleet of new stations, both large and small. There are still high hopes for the Wylfa site and Rolls-Royce SMR have been busy with the siting of their first factory, as they continue to explore exciting export opportunities for its UK-flagged technology here and around the world.
New projects feed trust and confidence, essential to attracting investors, and vital if the industry is to get on with doing what it does best, building a greener future and creating good jobs that can change lives. Over 64,500 people are employed by our members in our brilliant industry today, more than at any point over the last five years, but we can do more across the whole industry.
From new build to decommissioning, and from STEP to the GDF, the industry finds itself in a rare position of having top-down and bottom-up support. Conditions, be they political or climatic, are making the case for nuclear, shown in the surge in support, up 21 points since summer 2021.
With that comes expectation, and a responsibility to deliver at speed and at scale. If there is one industry that can do it, it is ours.