Bath and North East Somerset Council
Full Council meeting 15 September 2022
Green Party Motion on the impact of increasing taxation on the inhabitants of B&NES as a result of the Government’s continued support and funding of nuclear power in preference to renewable energy generation.
To be proposed by Cllr Joanna Wright
- The arguments for nuclear energy appear to be contentious and therefore decisions to continue to invest in expensive, long term nuclear projects require further scrutiny.
- New research suggests that the assumption that nuclear energy is necessary to form a baseload of energy provision is no longer valid; neither is it valid to pursue the development of nuclear energy purely on economic grounds.
- Nuclear energy is not a clean and safe technology and still has the potential to cause considerable harm.
- The current planning policy that governs renewable energy infrastructure, and onshore wind turbines in particular, needs to be amended to encourage investment in this area.
- Calls on the Government to review approvals given for Sizewell C and for investment into nuclear energy in general.
- Calls on the Government to back investment in renewable energy and provide financing for this. Instead of investing in nuclear as at present
- Calls on the government to change the National Planning Policy on Solar Panels and Wind Turbines.
- Requests that the Leader write to the Secretary of State at the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and local MPs to inform them of the council’s position.
Background information to the Motion
Nuclear versus Renewable Energy
The UK Government is continuing with its commitment to nuclear energy, giving the go ahead for the Sizewell C nuclear plant on 20th July 2022 with funding approved in August 2022.
The move has prompted the Claverton Energy Research Group (CERG (1), to publicly join the large and growing number of scientists, academics, energy professors and campaigners in opposing new nuclear development on purely economic grounds (2).
Available on the CERG website is research by Professor Mark Barratt at University College London (UCL) (2) which shows that “baseload generators” such as nuclear power plants are not needed in an all-renewable future and their use will almost certainly increase the cost of energy to consumers. Professor Barratt’s research modelled the comparative costs and performance of nuclear and renewable power using hour by hour wind and solar data and 35 years of weather data. The research simulated the entire power demand needed to sustain the UK, including meeting the demand for electric vehicles, shipping fuel, and heating buildings.
The modelling showed that
- the total cost of renewable generation would be less than nuclear, and would be just as able to provide continuous power even with wind and solar droughts.
- The continuing fall in wind and solar energy costs, along with cheaper storage of heat and power means that an entirely renewable and highly reliable power supply as a replacement for fossil fuels is available for the UK at a lower cost than any alternative.
- 7 GW of wind will generate about 40% more electricity than Hinkley at 30 – 50% of the cost per kWh and will be built in half the time.
- Under no scenario did nuclear add value to the mix.
Long term effects of Nuclear Energy
Dr Paul Dorfman, Chair of the Nuclear Consulting Group and Associate Fellow, Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex states that the idea that the new generation of nuclear will be safe and clean is a fiction (3). “The reality is nuclear is an extremely costly and inflexible technology with the potential to cause significant harm. Not forgetting that coastal nuclear is at ramping risk from climate-driven sea level, storm surge and flooding – with the nuclear industry and regulatory mitigation efforts becoming increasingly obsolete.”
The CERG also notes that safe solutions for the disposal of nuclear waste still need to be found also as outlined by Greenpeace (The Global Crisis of Nuclear Waste – Greenpeace France November 2018) (4).
The CERG also notes that nuclear in the UK and Europe has proved to be unreliable with French nuclear currently only 50% available.
National Planning policies
As attention continues to grow on the role that renewable energy plays in improving our energy security, new research from UWE Bristol (5) has revealed the impact of current policy on restricting onshore wind farm development in England. The combined impact of a removal of financial subsidies and policy change has led to a 97% decrease in the number of onshore wind turbines that have been granted planning permission in the period 2016-2021 compared to the period 2009-2014. While financial subsidies have now returned, there is a clearly need to address the planning policy.
Solar energy applications have been rejected in unprecedented numbers (6). Planning permission for 23 solar farms was refused across England, Wales and Scotland between January 2021 and July 2022, which could have produced enough renewable energy to power an estimated 147,000 homes annually, according to analysis of government figures by the planning and development consultancy Turley.
The refusals have jumped significantly since the start of 2021 – the research found only four projects were refused planning permission during 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 combined.
Carbon Brief, a UK-based website covering the latest developments in climate science, climate policy and energy policy states that solar not being a threat to prime agricultural land, as it currently occupies only 0.1% of UK land area – less than half that occupied by golf courses – and will rise to only 0.3% if the government meets its net zero pledge (7).