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Slash renewables target to protect nuclear, says EDF

From the ENDS Report Bulletin, 2009-03-12

The development of new nuclear plant could be prevented if the government allows too much windpower to be built, energy giants EDF and Eon have claimed.

EDF – the world’s largest nuclear operator with 58 plants – is calling on the government to lower its proposed renewable electricity target from 35% of supply in 2020 to just 20%.

The company says building the wind capacity needed to hit a 35% target is “not realistic or indeed desirable” due to the problem of intermittency.

EDF’s views were revealed last week when the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) published a summary of responses to its consultation on its renewables strategy.

EDF’s response says that at times of high wind, output from wind and nuclear could exceed demand. “As a result… plant will need to be curtailed i.e. instructed not to generate.” In reality, only nuclear will be curtailed, it says, as wind generation is subsidised so operators will pay to continue generating. The UK will also need windfarms to operate to meet its EU renewable energy target.

If nuclear plants have to be regularly turned off, this “damages the economics of these projects, meaning that less will be built.” The UK can still meet its EU target with a lower level of renewable electricity by doing more on renewable heat, it says.

EDF’s views are partially supported by Eon. Its consultation response says that any curtailment of nuclear “raises the question of whether it will be possible to recover the fixed costs of… plant over its operational life”. Curtailment could become an issue once wind provides 20-25% of UK electricity, it says.

Gaynor Hartnell, director of policy at the Renewable Energy Association, said: “We don’t have a problem with companies taking issue with the proposed split between renewable electricity and heat – it is renewables’ overall contribution to energy that matters. [Renewable] heat could certainly contribute more, but that’s not to say that it needs to. Our electricity network can cope with at least ten times’ the amount of wind we currently have.”