Scottish nuclear output grew in 2021, but imported fossil gas will replace retiring stations
Scotland relied on more nuclear power to generate its electricity than any other UK nation in 2021 new official government data has revealed. New figures released by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy show nuclear generation in Scotland rose by 8% in 2021 compared to 2020, with nuclear’s proportion of electricity generation growing to 30%, the highest share of all four UK nations.
The data shows Scotland has had the biggest share of nuclear in its energy mix for five years running, from 2017 to 2021, and shows the country’s reliance on its nuclear stations to supplement renewable generation. COP26, held in Glasgow last autumn, benefited from this strong showing, with nuclear providing approximately 70% of the electricity for the conference at times.
Scotland’s two nuclear power stations, Torness and Hunterston B, occupy just one-quarter of a square mile, but over their lifetimes, have generated enough electricity to power every home in Scotland for almost 60 years. They have saved 400 million tonnes of carbon emissions, making them the most valuable clean energy assets in Scottish history.
But with the retirement of Hunterston B in January of this year after 46 years of service, and Torness due to finish generating power within the decade, Scotland will lose vital clean power.
Since the Scottish Government is opposed to new nuclear projects, there are no replacements for either station. The gap will have to be filled in part with imported gas sourced from extremely volatile global markets, which has pushed energy prices to levels never seen before. This will prevent more ambitious emission reduction and will threaten Scotland’s energy security.
The Climate Change Committee has warned that because of nuclear fleet retirements, including Hunterston B and Torness, zero-carbon generation across the UK will shrink from 130 TWh to 90 TWh by 2030 without new projects. It has called for new nuclear builds to replace the existing fleet by 2035 to maintain nuclear generation at its current levels.
Tom Greatrex, Chief Executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, said:
“Nuclear should be at the heart of Scotland’s clean energy future. For decades, it has provided good jobs, energy security, and clean, affordable power for the Scottish people, and it can do the same for the next generation.
“Nuclear complements renewable power in Scotland to ensure it has a reliable, lowest possible carbon power mix. Minimising reliance on fossil fuels for electricity is good for the Scottish economy, households and for the planet.”
Notes to editors
- The full dataset and summary from BEIS can be accessed here: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/energy-trends-december-2022-special-feature-article-electricity-generation-and-supply-in-scotland-wales-northern-ireland-and-england-2017-to-20
- The UK has five generating nuclear power stations, providing around 16% of the country’s electricity from 5.9 GW of capacity.
- Two stations will retire by March 2024, and all but one will retire by March 2028. Torness will retire in 2028.
- Nuclear has saved the UK 2.3 billion tonnes of carbon emissions, far more than any other source. The saving is equivalent to all UK emissions from 2015 through 2020.
About the Nuclear Industry Association
As the trade association for the civil nuclear industry in the UK, the Nuclear Industry Association represents more than 250 companies across the UK’s nuclear supply chain.
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