New nuclear sites for England and Wales

The UK Coalition Government’s Energy National Policy Statements (NPSs) has been published with eight nuclear sites named, for development by 2025, and 33 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy capacity flagged. The plans will now be debated in Parliament.

The plan is the government’s attempt to address projected energy challenges, as a number of older nuclear and fossil fuel reactors are scheduled to close. The future of nuclear in the U.K. had been called into question following the Fukushima disaster, however there appears to be a pro-nuclear majority in the lower house of Parliament, the House of Commons.

The sites for the eight new nuclear reactor are spread across England and Wales with all of them being adjacent to existing nuclear sites. Communities with existing reactors are believed to be more willing to accept new nuclear developments and some communities actively support new reactors and the employment they will bring.

Microgeneration strategy announced

Earlier in the week the Coalition Government also released its Microgeneration Strategy that looks to support domestic and small-scale installations for both electricity and heat generation. Photovoltaics are included in this category. The strategy includes a new focus on heat generation and places much of the emphasis on the renewable energy industry itself to deliver many of the goals outlined.

Microgeneration is broadly supported by the current feed-in tariff (FIT) scheme in place in the U.K. however earlier this month it was announced that rates for "larger" solar installations will be dramatically cut from August 1. Direct comparisons between the previous scheme and the reduced FITs are difficult as installations are delineated differently, however for installations over 50 kilowatts (kW) the decrease is a little over 70 percent.

The solar industry in the U.K. has reacted angrily to the changes and released a report into the potential of the domestic solar industry in terms of job creation. However, not all solar companies seem to be devastated by the moves. In a statement summing up the mood of the recent Intersolar trade show, Azur Solar’s Robert ‘Markus’ Feldmann said: "In the UK, the industry is currently too heavily focused on the impending government changes for the FIT for larger installations."

He continued that in light of rising power bills – six big U.K. power providers announced increases in rates adding £150-a-year to the average domestic power bill – photovoltaic remains an attractive option. "Solar as a solution works and works well. What we’ve got to do as a global industry is work within existing frameworks and educate customers about financial and environmental advantages."