The UK has missed renewable energy opportunities by focusing too heavily on new nuclear, according to campaigners reacting to Centrica’s decision to withdraw from the UK’s nuclear rebuilding programme.
The energy firm, which owns British Gas, rejected the chance yesterday to take a 20% stake in four new reactors being built by EDF Energy, and blamed its withdrawal on inflated costs and construction delays.
“The nuclear dream is becoming an economic nightmare”, said Andrew Pendleton, head of campaigns at environmental group Friends of the Earth.
“Centrica’s decision to pull out of building new reactors is further evidence of the escalating cost of this form of energy.”
The companies behind the rebuilding programme will now have to find other investors, with Chinese firm Guangdong Nuclear Power Group among the frontrunners to replace Centrica, according to The Telegraph.
A spokesperson for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said, “The decision by Centrica reflects the company’s investment priorities and is not a reflection on UK government policy.
“The recent purchase of Horizon Nuclear Power by Hitachi is clear evidence of the attractiveness of the new nuclear market in the UK.”
But many claim that Centrica’s departure will impact much more than just the nuclear rebuilding programme – with questions raised about the UK’s energy policy more generally.
“The Centrica pull-out has exposed a very troubled UK energy strategy”, said Greenpeace policy director Doug Parr.
“This government’s relentless focus on new nuclear has lost us years of investment in truly green energy and it now needs a Plan B to deliver a clean, safe energy system – one that doesn’t depend on deluded estimates of how much nuclear will get built.
“Investors are crying out for the focus to shift onto other means of low carbon generation. The longer the government chases its nuclear dream, the more the UK loses out on the jobs and economic benefits that viable, affordable green energy will bring.”
The government’s nuclear plans were dealt another blow when it was revealed last week that a site in Cumbria would not become the host community for a £12 billion nuclear waste disposal facility, after the county council voted in favour of withdrawing from the selection process.