Here we go, DCO

Tom Greatrex

28 May 2020

© EDF Energy


While you might be forgiven for it not being at the forefront of your thoughts on the Sunday of a sunny Bank Holiday weekend, it was nevertheless notable that on Sunday afternoon the percentage of the UK’s power coming from low carbon sources hit 80%, meeting the 2030 carbon intensity target.  Burning fossil fuels to generate electricity dropped to 12%.  Solar, wind power and nuclear did the heavy lifting on what was the first sustained daytime achievement of a milestone previously only reached fleetingly, and mostly at night.

It is certainly something to be celebrated, but it doesn’t mean the job is anywhere near done. Electricity demand is at an astonishingly low level due the unprecedented COVID-enforced economic doldrums and we’ve been lucky with a very windy and sunny spring.  Demand will rebound, and then some, as every effort is made to bring UK plc roaring back to full strength.

In fact, more accurately, this is really a signal for where the real work starts, and a recognition that even in the most advantageous of circumstances for minimising emissions it still required every source of low carbon power to reach that milestone. To get us to Net Zero we need 100% clean electricity, with minimal reliance on gas power to balance peaks and troughs. Weaning ourselves off hydrocarbons for heating and transport too means even greater demand for electricity, very likely doubling by 2050, which means quadrupling the amount of clean power.

Studies from the International Energy Agency, the OECD, the UK’s Committee on Climate Change, the Energy Systems Catapult and others all conclude the desire to meet Net Zero requires consistent, low carbon, reliable power alongside generation where output is dependent upon the weather. Net Zero needs low carbon power, and it needs all of the sources that can provide that low carbon power – Net Zero needs nuclear.

The submission of the application to build Sizewell C this week is an important step forward. The plant is critical to the country’s decarbonisation goals and by replicating the Hinkley project with the same design, supply chain and project approach, will demonstrate nuclear costs coming down at the same time as the much needed economic benefits to the UK will go up.

The latest socio-economic report on Hinkley, published this week, showed that EDF Energy has exceeded its target of spending £1.5 billion with businesses in the South West, five years ahead of schedule. New figures released in the project’s latest Socio-Economic impact report show that £1.7 billion has now been spent with more than 1,100 companies across the region.

Sizewell C can provide another massive stimulus: around 25,000 employment opportunities and 1,000 apprenticeships will be created during construction. In the East of England, Sizewell C will boost training and employment opportunities for young people and create long-term, well-paid jobs. Once operational, it will employ 900 people in high-skilled positions based in Suffolk.

By setting out its commitment and long-term financing approach the Government can unlock the same massive potential of other projects in the pipeline including Horizon’s Wylfa Newydd in North Wales, the CGN Bradwell B project in Essex, and small and advanced modular technologies which can help us build international leadership in clean energy.

Nuclear is a green economy powerhouse – now it is more important than ever that this economic, energy and environmental benefit is realised.