ZCBlog: Wind, the Liberal Democrats and Nuclear

Home » ZCBlog: Wind, the Liberal Democrats and Nuclear

In a disappointing U-turn for the party masquerading as ‘green’, this Saturday the Liberal Democrats voted to drop their longstanding opposition to nuclear energy.

Paul and Danielle from Zero Carbon Britain say of the decision:

“It is deeply concerning that a political party manifesting as ‘green’ would take such a regressive stance on nuclear, while the case for investment in renewables continues to build in terms of safety, local job creation and rising to the challenge of climate change.

The UK is ideally positioned to benefit from sustainable, home-grown and renewable energy technologies. Technologies that, unlike nuclear, do not have costly or difficult waste to manage; do not increase the risk of very serious and lasting damage from natural disasters or global political instabilities, and do not require expensive and lengthy decommissioning processes; we do not currently have plans for the high levels of nuclear waste we have generated already.”

Most importantly, recent modelling for the Zero Carbon Britain report demonstrates how we can in fact meet our energy needs with 100% renewable technology, with no nuclear component at all. Managing variability in a 100% renewable system can be achieved using long and short term energy storage technologies available today (see page 63 of the report).

In fact, strong winds on Sunday (just one day after the Liberal Democrats’ U-turn) led to new wind power records in the UK. At around 2pm, the National Grid’s live data feed  reported production of more than 5.7 GW of power from wind. This the highest ever recorded in the UK, producing 18% of the UK’s electricity and getting very close to the 6.6 GW produced by the UK’s nuclear power stations at that point.

And during the early hours of Monday, another record was broken: at 4am, absolute wind power output had gone down a bit to 4.7 GW, but due to the lower overall power consumption at that time of the day, this was enough for another record: for the first time in history, UK wind turbines produced 20% of all electricity in the grid.

CC Image courtesy of Phault on Flickr

Of course, the highly variable nature of wind power means that at other times there is much less power available. Opponents of wind power will be quick to point out that only a week ago UK wind output hit a low of 0.085 GW (0.2% of demand). Therefore, it’s more useful to look at longer term averages:

In 2013, the average so far has been 5.2%, up from a 4.0% average for 2012. And if the autumn of 2013 is a windy one then that figure could still increase, especially as some large offshore wind farms were completed this year.

The UK does not need base-load power from nuclear; we can manage variability in a 100% renewable system with the appropriate and flexible energy storage technologies available today.

That the Liberal Democrats are adopting this new stance, alongside pro-fracking commitments, under the banner of a ‘zero carbon Britain’ is a disgrace.

Nuclear is high risk, unsustainable and an energy source we can do without.