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Nuclear power 'cheapest low carbon option'

Government advisers have hailed nuclear power as the cheapest way to develop the UK’s low-carbon energy supply for the next decade.

A Committee on Climate Change report, The Renewable Energy Review, has called for up to 45 per cent of the UK’s energy needs to be sourced from renewable energy by 2030, compared to the current level of just 3 per cent.

The CCC said nuclear energy should also provide around 40 per cent of energy as it “appears to be the most cost-effective of the low carbon technologies”.

The report also said offshore wind was currently proving too expensive, but could play a major role in delivering future renewable energy as there was significant potential for cost reduction.

The CCC was asked to advise on a review of renewable energy after the government came into office in May 2010.

Chief executive David Kennedy said: “People argue that offshore wind is very expensive - and it’s true, it is more expensive at the moment than some other technologies, so nuclear at the moment looks like the lowest cost low-carbon option.

“But we can expect significant cost reductions over the next two decades across a range of technologies, whether wind, marine or solar, and that’s why these technologies are promising.”

The report also found that household bills may rise by around £50 in 2020 to cover the cost for building renewable energy capacity, but this could be reduced by installing home energy-efficiency measures.

CCC chairman Lord Adair Turner said: “Our analysis shows that renewable energy technologies are very promising, and have an important role to play in helping to meet the UK’s carbon budgets and 2050 target, alongside other low-carbon technologies such as nuclear and carbon capture and storage.

“The focus now should be creating a stable investment climate for renewables, making longer-term commitments to support less mature technologies, and putting in place incentives to deliver significantly increased investment in renewable power and heat generation required over the next decade.”

Among the report’s findings are:

  • Further funding will be required to support renewable heat in the period  2015-20 and in the 2020s
  • Firm commitments on support for offshore wind and marine generation through the 2020s should be made now. These should be implemented through the new electricity market arrangements.
  • CCS technology is promising but highly uncertain, and will remain so until this technology is demonstrated at scale later in the decade. In the longer term, storage capacity may be a constraint
  • Unless it can be demonstrated that risks of a shortage of finance to 2015/16 can be mitigated, allowing the GIB to borrow money from its inception should be seriously considered.

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