Boris Johnson’s announcement about Sizewell was very strange. Firstly, it was a reannouncement of money that had already been committed to helping EDF get ready to go nuclear. It wasn’t actually giving the go ahead. We are quite a long way away from giving the go ahead for Sizewell. Secondly, it has nothing to do with our current energy policy emergency, which is the current energy crisis. It takes fifteen years, if you are lucky, to build a nuclear power station. So, I don’t know why he thought it would be relevant to the immediate problem. It is a bit of ‘jam tomorrow’, I guess. Thirdly, why would you come up with an idea for improving Britain’s energy supply that means you put energy bills up, instead of driving them down. Putting energy bills up is actually what building more nuclear power would do.
You can currently buy electricity from offshore wind at about thirty-seven pounds per megawatt hour. If we went ahead with Sizewell, in about fifteen years, you would be buying electricity from Sizewell at somewhere around one hundred and twenty pounds per megawatt hour. So, it is completely impossible to see how that is a good deal for consumers. Not only that, but you would be asking consumers first of all to start paying now for building Sizewell C, way before it is generating any electricity. Then when it does start generating electricity, you will be asking people to pay more for that electricity than they would be paying if they were getting it from renewables. So, it is a really bad deal for consumers.
Despite what Boris Johnson says, we are not going to get power from Sizewell in a couple of years, we are going to get it in fifteen years if we are lucky. Boris Johnson is very well known for being a jovial and optimistic chap, but he also has a track record of proposing scheme that are really ‘pie in the sky’, like building a London airport in The Thames, or building bridges across to Northern Ireland. This is just another one of those ‘pie in the sky’ schemes that he is dreaming about, but he is not actually doing any analysis on. Mrs Thatcher promised ten nuclear power stations, and she got one. Tony Blair did exactly the same, promised ten nuclear power stations, and he got one. This government has been in power for twelve years, and still hasn’t got one. So, I don’t think that Boris Johnson is in any position to be critical of other governments.
We shouldn’t be looking to nuclear power as an energy solution. It is the most expensive way we have at the moment to generate electricity. We know that we can generate all the electricity that we need from renewables. Especially if we do what we need to do to get energy bills down, which is to drive forward on energy efficiency. We know that we can take care of those days when the sun doesn’t shine, and the wind doesn’t blow, by increasing storage. We currently turn off wind at night when we don’t need it. We pay people to turn that electricity off. What we could be doing with that electricity is using it to make green hydrogen and having it available to use in existing gas plant when we have days when the wind doesn’t blow, and the sun doesn’t shine.
It is really interesting that we have now seen businesses not only asking the government to do more, but also coming up with their own ideas about what needs to be done. Stephen Fitzpatrick from OVO was doing that just yesterday. In a way businesses are beginning to give up on the government coming up with policy ideas. There are a number of ideas to deal with the payment crisis, so in the short term one or another of those ideas has got to be picked up. In the medium to longer term, i.e., beyond this winter, we really do need to invest properly in energy efficiency, to make it possible for people to use less energy while still staying as warm as they need to be. We know how to do that, and indeed up until the current government, we were insulating two and a half million homes per year. Then we got rid of the ‘green crap’, and we are now insulting about thirty thousand per year. That means that an awful lot of people are paying around two hundred and twenty pounds more per year for their electricity than they otherwise would be.
These are some excerpts of an interview for Sky News. Unfortunately the video has a delay, but the sound is unaffected. The full interview can be heard here: