These are not necessarily the views of Reduce The Use but are given for information and as issues for debate
Over the decades, there have been numerous Energy Policy Reviews trying to find that elusive policy that would result in a clean environment, a financially viable supply industry, independence from foreign suppliers and, most important, realistic prices for consumers. The foreign supply debate hits the headlines in times of political unrest.
Why the Problems – Cost?
The Windmill debate: with machines that can operate forever using only wind. Residents of urban areas are not familiar with the ghostly noise emitted or the effect on the visual environment or even that RAF pilots are said to worry because of the hazards to flying.
Another alternative is Solar Energy but it is argued that we would need to carpet vast areas of the UK with glass. Is that a small price to pay to avoid using coal or natural gas that contribute to Greenhouse Gases – or to building wind machines?
There is always the ongoing argument of Nuclear Power Stations – is it as uneconomic as some argue?
Then there is the discussion on the greater use of Public Transport. Is the tube safe? Will the rail service become less irregular? Will the roads allow us to move? Do we all need to buy small cars?
Do we need more Insulation in our houses?
Ministers have put forward various ideas with subsidies to save jobs, develop nuclear power, find feasible wind or sun policies and, of course, protect the environment whilst enabling the UK to meet its Climate Change targets. It is suggested that the market would develop a sensible and efficient energy economy but the first step would be to get the prices of the various energy sources right. The prices should reflect the cost of the labour and capital required to produce them and include the so-called the social costs.
With emissions of pollutants from cars, discharges from nuclear wastes plants, visual problems of windmills (visual pollution) and fuels that add to Global Warming, resources have a value and their consumption a cost; it is argued these costs should be included in the price – known as “internalising the externalities. Would this encourage reduced consumption?
The resources that imposed fewer environmental costs would be cheaper than others and find favour in the competitive marketplace; in this way, would the more polluting and intrusive energy sources be replaced?
Then there is the argument that the present tax should be replaced burden with environmental taxation – but that is an argument for another day!
Approval was recently given for a coal-fired power station – the first in Britain for twenty years. Medway Council recommended the £1 billion investment but awaits a final decision from the Secretary of State for Business. Opponents of the Station want a public inquiry that will address the wider issue of using coal; it is argued that, until there is technology to remove carbon dioxide from the emissions, the Government should place a moratorium on new coal-fired stations. E.ON UK (previously Powergen) wants to replace the existing Power Station with a clean coal, carbon-capture system that could become the prototype for future clean coal projects in Britain.
A spokesman for E.ON said: It’s going to take 15 years to get nuclear up and running, so in the short term you build gas and, in the medium term, coal.
The new plant would produce enough energy to supply about 1.5 million homes and lead to a cut in carbon emissions of almost two million tons a year. The existing Power Station does not comply with the Large Combustion Plant Directive so must close.
The Government recently announced its backing for a new generation of nuclear power stations across the UK stating that nuclear power would provide a “safe and affordable” way to secure the country’s power needs. MPs were told that “every new nuclear power station will save the same amount of carbon emissions that are generated from around one million households.” The proposals received unanimous Cabinet backing.
It was stated that the reactors being built would not be publicly subsidised with the financial burden and rewards falling on the Private Sector. However, it should be remembered that, under the Radioactive Contaminated Land Regulations Act, the Government has responsibility for land polluted by a “nuclear occurrence” as commercial insurance would have been prohibitively expensive.
At present, 20% of the UKs electricity is generated by Nuclear Power Stations. However, with the exception of Sizewell B, all existing Nuclear Reactors are scheduled to be closed down by 2023 (de-commissioning would start much earlier) so the new reactors would be necessary. It has been reported that twenty reactors could be constructed but there is an estimated time span of ten years from approval and commissioning to completed construction.
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