Huhne Boosts Horizon Wylfa Plans

by J Roberts
(North Wales)

Great news for Horizon Nuclear Power's plans for Wylfa B on Anglesey as UK Energy Secretary Chris Huhne announces a "seismic shift" towards cleaner, low carbon technology like nuclear and renewables.

Setting out goverenment plans, Mr Huhne said Britain faces a significant challenge of surging demand, shrinking supply and a set of very ambitious emissions targets.

Estimates suggest by 2050 the demand for electricity will have doubled, and 30% must come from renewables by 2020 under an EU set target. The current figure is only 7 per cent.

The government estimates more than £100 billion capital investment will be needed over the next ten years or so to build new power plants and to upgrade the national electricity grid.

There is an urgent task to bring this extra investment online as old nuclear power stations, like Wylfa A, and coal plants are retired, with about 25 per cent of the UK's generating capacity needing to be replaced by 2020.

It is clear the electricity to be delivered by these new stations has to be affordable and sustainable, and so helping Britain to ensure the lights stay on as well as meeting its greenhouse gas emision targets.

As it is currently set up, the energy market will be unable to deliver these key goals over the longer term when we consider the level of investment needed.

So what are the key points to emerge from this latest statement and how will this impact on Horizon Nuclear Power's bid to build Wylfa B on Anglesey?

Developers and investors in nuclear plants and wind turbine farms as well as other low carbon, renewable energy schemes will be guaranteed a price for their electricity which
enables them to clear a profit.

A new restriction will come into force which will stop fossil fuel plants, principally coal and natural gas, from generating electricity unless they have installed adequate carbon capture and storage (or CCS) infrastucture. This means significant release of carbon dioxide is sequestered rather than released into the atmosphere.

Significantly, there will a new carbon floor, or a minimum price, for carbon emissions from a power plant. This sends an important signal to potential developers that the can with confidence enter long term contracts.

Of equal significance is the boost such an approach should give to the engineering skills sector as it gears up to meeting the growing demand from clean, renewable energy projecs.

This is relelvant to Anglesey with the recent opening of the fabrication and engineering skills centre at Coleg Menai in Llangefni.

One cause for concern, however, is that while new alterantive energy sectors such as offshore wind, wave and tidal power will receive subsidies, there is no corresponding support for nuclear new build such as Horizon's Wylfa B project.

There will also be extra payments available for generators who can provide a reserve within the energy grid system to meet suddden demand surges or possibly the occassional power cut.

With companies such as EDF welcoming these latest announcements, particularly the introduction of a carbon floor,it seems the environment is favourable for Wylfa B going ahead, other things being equal.

But we must recognise that time is at a premium and there is still the question of financial subsidy upfront for the major infrastructure challenges involved.

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