I write in response to Professor Trevawas’ letter on the cost of renewables (Scottish Energy News,13 September 2017).
Prof. Trevawas states that wind is now a mature technology and should now compete with other energy sources in the energy auctions.
Nuclear power is also a mature technology. Shouldn’t it equally compete with other energy sources in the energy auctions instead of receiving a subsidised price over double the current price of energy?
In the current energy market arrangements, wind does receive a penalty in terms of a lower (or even negative) price at times of high production and faces penalties when it fails to produce energy it has committed to delivering. Wind also does not receive income from the Capacity Mechanism, designed to explicitly cover the costs of the reliable energy that Prof. Trevawas values.
These market mechanisms have also spurred innovation and development in demand management and energy storage that reduce the need for so much dispatchable capacity in the system.
Nuclear power is itself not entirely reliable, with the UK fleet only achieving a capacity factor of 73% in 2014, and equally needs other plant to cover lost output when reactors go offline for both refuelling and faults.
Reactor physics and the massive capital costs of nuclear plant also prevent it being run to provide flexibility for the power system.
The resulting total system costs should also, therefore, be included in any assessment of nuclear costs, along with the environmental costs of fuel production and waste disposal, the multi-billion pound bill for historic decommissioning costs and the billions wasted in the past on nuclear R&D that has yet to yield a commercially viable technology.