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More nuclear bias in another report

A surprisingly biased report, the "Implications of Global Growth for Carbon Emissions and Climate Change Policy by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), looks at nuclear through "rose tinted spectacles," says the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA). While PWC grades the viability of building 700 GW of nuclear plant around the world by 2054 as "high/medium," construction of 2000 GW of wind power is given a viability grading of "medium/low."

Nuclear, says PWC, "now appears to offer the prospect of increased future cost competitiveness given lower real discount rates." But "local environmental concerns" will hold land-based wind development back and the extra cost of offshore wind is a potential obstacle. "Shifting from fossil fuels to renewables ... requires reductions in the relative cost of options like wind and solar power," it says.

But the report's analysis of wind power's viability is far from thorough or accurate, says David Milborrow, consultant to BWEA. "It mentions technical limitations but does not say what these are and its comment about costs of offshore is fair at the moment, but not necessarily by 2054," he says. The analysis of nuclear is dubious, he says. "Could 700, 1000 MW nuclear power stations be built by 2054? That's about 15 plant per year. Debatable, in my opinion, given that the US Department of Energy suggests only 40 such plant will be built between 2010 and 2020 -- four per year," he adds. "Nuclear may make economic sense in places like Finland, where public sector discount rates are used, but is there any evidence that developments by the private sector would be undertaken without a substantial risk premium?"

Milborrow acknowledges that aiming for 2000 GW of wind by 2054 -- around 30 times current capacity -- would be ambitious. "Things would have to move fast and perhaps the likelihood of the necessary build rate is not dissimilar to the required nuclear build rate."

Achieving that target, though, is not impossible, he says. "There is no acknowledgement in the report that wind is now cheaper than gas in several places -- and likely to become even more competitive," he says. "Future cost reductions are highly likely." This is so for onshore and offshore wind, he adds.

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