A 2012 Report by the Association for the Conservation of Energy (ACE) and Unlock Democracy shows how we – the public and our elected representatives in Parliament – have been collectively misled by repeated but unfounded New Labour and ConDem government claims that, without new nuclear power stations, we shall soon be huddled in the cold and dark, and locked into a high carbon energy mix.
Call to re-open the nuclear debate in Parliament and for Select Committee inquiry into corrupt governance
Given successive governments’ sustained misrepresentation and concealment of their own evidence about the lack of any need for new nuclear (as outlined below), the Report calls for:
- Parliament to re-open the nuclear debate and to make its decision based upon the correct and full evidence
- an MPs’ investigation into how both New Labour and ConDem governments misled Ministers, MPs and Parliament
- a Select Committee inquiry into this corruption of governance.
New Labour government – “False information and half truths”
In order to reverse previous policy that no new nuclear power was needed, the Brown New Labour government presented two key documents to Ministers, MPs and Parliament, in relation to the 2008 Nuclear White Paper.
EN documents are given to MPs to inform their voting decisions on National Policy Statements. EN-1 proposed new nuclear power stations and EN-6 stated that “all 10” proposed new nuclear power stations are needed. The ACE/Unlock Democracy Report shows that both EN documents misled Ministers, MPs and Parliament with “false information and half truths”.
The government gave Ministers a White Paper to present to Parliament that said that new nuclear power stations are definitely needed. But both the White Paper and EN-6 failed to mention that the government had not carried out an assessment of long term electricity need.
No assessment of long term electricity need
The Report’s authors asked the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) for details of the Government assessment of future electricity demand up to and beyond 2050, and were told that there were no long term projections of electricity demand beyond 2024.
The Report also makes the point that, although the 2003 Energy White Paper said that energy efficiency was “the cheapest, cleanest, safest way of addressing our energy policy objectives”, the 2008 White Paper failed to work out how to maximise the accepted, cost-effective energy saving option and instead opted for the more expensive policy of generating more energy.
So with no evidence base, no assessment of long term electricity need and no assessment of the full potential of energy saving, the New Labour government “decreed that 10 new nuclear power stations were needed.”
Fiddling with figures for medium term electricity need
Both EN-1 and EN-6 said that a central assumption was that there will be a need for around 60 gigawatts(GW) of new capacity by 2025. But the documents fail to explain the need for this new capacity.
The Redpoint Report, which contains the modelling carried out to identify the medium term electricity capacity EN-1 and EN-6, identifies that there will be a 32 GW loss of electricity capacity by 2025 as a result of plant closures. But it does not show how you get from a 32 GW loss to a need for 60GW of new capacity.
This is because DECC didn’t ask them to identify the electricity need to 2025. Instead, DECC asked them to identify how much new renewables capacity would have to be built, in order to meet the Government’s Renewables Obligation (RO). This requires that around 28-29% of electricity must be generated from renewables by 2020.
The Report states that Redpoint’s analysts did what DECC asked them: they deducted plant closures from current capacity, then assumed that 29% of total electricity was required from renewables (including 24.6GW of new plant).
Then they added on the Government’s proposed new nuclear power stations’ capacity and other proposed totals, and reached the figure of 110 GW total capacity by 2020. This compares with current UK generation capacity of 80GW, and peak demand of 60GW (which EN-1 states will remain the same until 2025).
The Government then turned this 110GW capacity around to say that this was was the “central assumption” of need, so that meant building an extra 60GW of new capacity by 2025, as stated in EN-1 and EN-6. (Despite the fact that EN-1 identifed peak demand will not exceed 60GW by 2025.)
This is completely illogical. It is not a projection of the capacity needed to meet electricity need. It is a projection of potential capacity, regardless of need.
No need for new nuclear by 2025
Plus, the Redpoint analysis shows that the potential for renewables is far greater than 29% – although since they weren’t asked to quantify the maximum potential renewables capacity, they didn’t.
And if you take out the 4.8GW of nuclear electricity that Redpoint assumed would be available by 2025, this leaves total capacity as 105.2 GW (110Gw-4.8GW). This is 45.2 GW above the estimated 2025 peak demand of 60GW.
So where is the need for new nuclear power stations? Why did the New Labour Government present such misleading information to Ministers, MPs and Parliament?
ConDems ignore their own evidence in rush to new nuclear
Why does the ConDem government persist in restating in its National Policy Statements that there is a need for possibly 10 new nuclear power stations?
ConDem analyses of future energy generation pathways, based on the DECC 2050 pathways calculator, show no need for new nuclear in 6 out of 16 possible combos of different types of generation – so why not go down those routes? They all achieve the 80% carbon emissions reduction target, while making sure than energy supply meets energy demand.
The ACE/Unlock Democracy Report points out, “Robust Government analysis proves that we do not need any new nuclear power stations to keep the lights on and achieve 80% CO2 reductions”
But the ConDems’ 2011 EN-1 and EN-6, presented to Parliament to justify its National Policy Statements on energy and nuclear power, claim that the UK needs new nuclear power stations before 2025 to “avoid being locked into a higher carbon energy mix.” On this basis, MPs voted to support new nuclear power stations.
It’s not surprising that the Report states “it is abundantly clear that there has been a corruption of governance. MPs and Parliament have been misled.” A cross-party group of MPs has endorsed the Report. According to the Guardian, this group includes Alan Whitehead (Lab), Tessa Munt (LibDem), Mike Weatherley (Con), Martin Horwood (LibDem), Joan Walley (Lab) and Caroline Lucas (Green).