As the momentum starts to build on the UK’s newest nuclear power station at Hinkley Point, countries like Germany are steering their energy policies in a very different direction.
Whilst construction deals are being signed on Hinkley with the expectation to start producing electricity in 2025, the German Energiewende (Germany’s energy policy) is focusing on turning the country’s energy production around, with a vast increase in ‘clean’ energy production and a total exit from nuclear power by 2022. The main driving factor behind the German government’s decision to exit from nuclear power was the nuclear plant disaster at Fukushima in Japan caused by an earthquake and tsunami.
However clean energy is not without its hazards and pitfalls. Just this month, a 15 metre high turbine crashed to the ground in Eastern Germany after three of the blades failed, leading to an imbalance in the structure. Fortunately no one was hurt but the force of the impact drove the gear box unit two metres into the ground. Similar collapses have been seen before in Germany, Denmark and here in the UK.
Also, due to the unpredictability that comes with wind, solar and other renewable forms of power, there is still a need to generate power from more traditional sources. This is playing havoc with prices, not to mention hindering the overall reduction of carbon emission. On a particularly sunny or windy day, there is too much energy supply meaning producers are forced to pay the grid to take this extra supply off their hands which is having a knock on effect to the consumer. The answer is to increase the capacity for energy transmission but that takes time and a lot of money, but that will still leave the issue of carbon emission reduction.
So as the UK takes a different route with Hinkley and other new nuclear power plants in the pipeline, as well as major offshore windfarms including Dogger Bank and East Anglia, are we onto a good thing? With our extensive coastline, we are lucky to be able to maximise the offshore element of wind energy thus reducing the impact on the immediate landscape. Nuclear and renewables will work hand in hand to drive our energy production which will help to reduce the UK’s carbon emissions. Once complete Hinkley Point C will produce 7% of the UK’s electricity and will use the latest technologies in nuclear power plant and energy production.
Can an energy utopia ever exist? We’d love to hear your thoughts.