The Chairman of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ Power Industries Division, has responsed to the Energy and Climate Change Committee calling for a ‘plan B’ in case new nuclear reactors are not built in the UK.

Alistair Smith’s statement has highlighted key roles for both renewable energy and gas powered plants to play in the future of energy production in the UK.

He said, “In order for the country to have secure, low carbon electricity supplies long-term, the UK needs to establish a balanced electricity mix with low-carbon electricity from nuclear and renewable energy plants supported by flexible gas-fired generation, and in the longer term potentially carbon capture and storage technology.”

“Whilst this has been Government policy since 2008, the reforms required to encourage the market to follow this strategy have been painfully slow to take effect and as a result, very few power plants have been built over the past five years.”

“The Government needs to agree the level of support, or ‘strike price’, for projects where planning, engineering and funding have advanced sufficiently for construction to begin. This will encourage developers to progress their projects quickly. Dithering on this issue just plays into the hands of the developers who will be in an even stronger position if the capacity margins reduce and there becomes a real threat of the lights going out.”

“In the near term, the UK looks set to be at the mercy of gas price volatility as developers look to build gas plants to meet the looming gap.”

“But if market mechanisms are applied correctly by Government, there is an opportunity for the UK to have a truly diversified and secure energy mix where utilities are encouraged to develop their plans for renewable energy and nuclear power which will fill the much larger gap which will appear post 2020.”

This news comes at the same time as an announcement was made regarding a CCS project in Scotland winning a share of a £1.65m to carry out crucial research that will support a project in the UK.

A total of 11 CCS research projects at universities across the UK were offered funding by the UK CCS Research Centre (UKCCSRC) as part of its first call for proposals. A further two projects are still under discussion.

Carbon capture and storage has the potential to significantly reduce global emissions of CO2 by capturing the greenhouse gas from large emitters, such as power plants and industrial facilities, and storing it deep underground in geological formations.

Five out of the eleven successful projects involve researchers from Scottish CCS (SCCS) – a partnership of Heriot-Watt University, British Geological Survey (BGS) and University of Edinburgh (UoE). Their research will cover the full CCS chain, from capturing and transporting CO2 to defining the potential of North Sea CO2 storage sites and developing processes for monitoring long-term storage.

Professor Stuart Haszeldine, SCCS director, said, “It’s important that gaps in current knowledge are filled quickly, and this funding will help the SCCS partnership contribute to the research needed by industry and government in order to fully realise the potential of CCS in the UK. It is a testament to the quality and diversity of the SCCS partnership that we have been so successful in so many topics across such a wide range.”