NIC’s Review Ignores The Real Energy Problems

By Paul Homewood




Britain’s first independent infrastructure review has poured cold water on plans to invest billions of pounds in a string of new nuclear power stations, in favour of cheaper wind and solar power.

The National Infrastructure Commission dealt a blow to the Government’s nuclear ambitions by warning ministers against striking a deal for more than one follow-up to the Hinkley Point C project before 2025.

Instead, billions of pounds should be funnelled into renewable power and energy efficiency measures for homes and businesses.

Sir John Armitt, chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission, said by holding off on multiple, pricey nuclear deals ministers can “protect the money in the pockets of consumers”.

The cost of renewable technologies has plummeted in recent years, casting doubt on the economic merits of nuclear projects spearheaded by major energy companies including EDF Energy, Korean utility Kepco and China’s state-backed nuclear company China General Nuclear.

Sir John Armitt, chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission

Sir John Armitt, chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission Credit: Micha Theiner


By making renewables “the main players in our energy system – something that was considered a pipedream as little as a decade ago”, Sir Armitt claims UK consumers could pay the same in real terms for their energy in 2050 as they do today.

Sir Armitt’s report said by the end of the next decade around half Britain’s electricity should come from wind and solar power, up from just below a third. Meanwhile, £3.8bn should be invested in home energy efficiency alongside low-carbon alternatives to replace oil and gas for heating homes and businesses.


Heaven help us!

It is relevant to point out that John Armitt was CEO of the basket case Network Rail from 2002 to 2007. Now apparently he is an expert on energy policy.

But he is obviously unaware that nuclear and renewable power are not interchangeable. Nuclear provides vital baseload, which wind and solar cannot. Of course, we could provide the same baseload with gas or coal power plants, but he does not seem to think that these are even worth mentioning.

Silly Jilly states that nearly a third of Britain’s electricity comes from wind and solar, but the actual NIC press release admits this is from all forms of renewable power. In fact, wind and solar only contributed 18% last year, with biomass accounting for another 10%. As we know, burning wood does not reduce emissions of CO2 in the short or medium term, and is simply a very expensive accounting trick.

Armitt seems to make no mention of biomass however.

He also seems to be blissfully unaware that solar power produces next to nothing in winter months. For instance, between October 2017 and March 2018, solar power generated 0.81 TWh, just 0.5% of the UK’s total generation in that period of 159.3 TWh.

He talks about cost effectiveness, but how can he justify spending billions on solar panels that can’t be used in winter?


Even the Committee on Climate Change accept that we will still need gas to supply a quarter of Britain’s electricity in 2030, even under a “High Renewables” scenario.

Figure 4.3 Generation for scenarios that reach around 100 g/kWh in 2030 (TWh)

High nuclear High renewables High CCS
Nuclear 84 47 63
Onshore wind 47 52 47
Offshore wind 72 91 72
Carbon capture & Storage 27 27 48
Solar 17 34 17
Tidal 2 2 2
Biomass 24 24 24
Hydro 5 5 5
Gas CCGT 99 97 100
Gas OCGT 1 1 1
Total 379 379 379

Scenarios for Fifth Carbon Budget – CCC


Yet, as the CCC also show, about 40GW of baseload will have closed by 2030, of which 10GW is gas:


Scenarios for Fifth Carbon Budget – CCC


As we currently have about 32GW of CCGT capacity, this will leave us with 22GW by 2030. In other words we will probably need 40GW of new CCGT capacity by then, something that Armitt makes no mention of at all.

He also talks about converting homes to hydrogen for heating and cooking, but there is no mention of the absolutely horrific cost of doing this.

Finally he claims that UK consumers could pay the same in real terms for their energy in 2050 as they do today. I am not aware that he has a crystal ball, but what is certain is that the wind and solar farms we build today won’t be around by then, so building them now won’t affect that equation. In any event, I don’t know of anybody who gives a toss how much how much we will be paying in 32 years time – what we do care about is what we are paying now and in the near future.

But we do know that the cost of subsidising renewable energy is already crippling, and will continue to inexorably rise for many years to come.


Like all quangocrats, Armitt blindly follows the policy objectives laid down by his masters in Whitehall.

It is a pity that he could not produce a truly independent report, to warn of the very real dangers that govt climate policies are leading us to, the huge costs involved, and offer a real alternative.

This is a chance missed to introduce some realism into the debate.



There is one more graph I want to show from the CCC’s Fifth Carbon Budget:


Figure shows hourly results in a hypothetical power sector scenario reaching 100 gCO2/kWh in 2030 of the contribution of nuclear, wind and solar output to meeting demand, stacked from low to high against hourly demand, stacked from high to low. The role of demand-side response, storage and interconnector flows are also shown in the dotted lines (bringing down peak demand during periods on the left and increasing demand at periods of higher low-carbon output to reduce potential curtailment). The implication is that gaps between low-carbon output and demand on left side of chart must be met by coal/gas CCS as well as conventional thermal plant (e.g. unabated gas).


As the description states, the graph illustrates how much electricity will still need to come from coal or gas in 2030, even under extremely optimistic scenarios.

Above all though, it shows that for much of the year, we will need 40GW or more of “spare” capacity, and maybe as much as 70GW at peak times.


July 10, 2018 at 01:36PM

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