By Max Clarke
Political fallout in the wake of the on-going Fukushima crisis has prompted Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg to reconsider Britain’s nuclear power programme.
Speaking in Mexico last week Mr Clegg said that the coalition would be unable to subsidise any future safety liabilities incurred by the British atomic industry following the Fukushima nuclear meltdown.
Clegg’s concerns have triggered conflicting responses, with nuclear industry representative Andy Horstead saying that as Britain’s energy needs cannot be met by renewable energy, abandoning nuclear would leave us no choice that to place all energy dependency on gas exporters- primarily Russia and Qatar.
Recent advances in solar power, where Germany leads the industry, have seen massive reductions in cost and increases in effieiency; making solar power a serious contender to meet out energy needs, as Ken moss, CEO of UK based solar company mO3 explains: “The cost of generating power from solar photovoltaic systems has steadily fallen over the last ten years while the projected costs of constructing the new nuclear plants have ballooned.”
Ray Noble, speaking on behalf of the Renewable Energy Association, also advocates embracing solar power:
“While no single Energy Source is the ‘Holy Grail’, we do need a mix of technologies, Solar has the ability to be deployed starting immediately compared with the time lag for building of new Power Stations. If Government got behind a progressive Solar build program we calculate that over 16GW can be installed by 2020, still small compared with Germany which will be over 40GW by 2020,”
However, Britain’s ability to join Germany in pioneering solar technology has been dealt a blow by Energy Secretary Chris Huhne’s announcement of a 72% cut in the feed-in-tariff for medium sized solar developments last month.
Under the feed-in-tariff scheme, individuals or developers who generate power from solar — or other renewable sources - receive payments from their energy supplier based on how much energy they generate to off-set installation.
According to Mr Noble: “This is an absolute disaster … no new projects will start if this proposal becomes law. This industry has been strangled at birth. The huge number of envisaged new jobs will disappear.”