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Nuclear not renewables
1 November 1997
UK emissions targets will not be met unless there is major investment in a new nuclear power programme, according to Mike Laughton of the University of London. Speaking at the Commonwealth Institute in London at a conference on Electricity Energy Strategy in Europe, he was critical of the government's adoption of a 20% target for CO2 reduction by 2010. If the British government wants to achieve its target then it might as well shut down the coal industry, he said. More than half of the UK's electricity would need to be met by gas, with the rest coming mostly from nuclear and renewables. "We have an undeveloped renewable industry which is peanuts," he said. "If you want to get to these figures, you are going to have to start commissioning nuclear power stations, É one every year until 2010." Yet this is impossible in the UK's privatised electricity set up, he added. "We have this dilemma. We can either have a privatised deregulated industry or we can have an emissions policy. We can't have both." Laughton warned that claims that there are many years' left of fossil fuel supplies are beside the point. "We are not running out of oil. What we are running out of is cheap oil," he said. Moreover, if gas prices rise as anticipated, nuclear will become more attractive. There is a great uncertainty about renewables, he claimed. They were perceived as having great potential, largely because there is so little known about them. But if they are to be taken seriously and not remain a marginal source of electricity, problems such as financing have to be addressed, he said. Laughton favoured demand side options for reducing electricity use, such as improving efficiency by adopting new performance standards and demand side management -- people respond to spot pricing, he said.
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