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John Webley: The Conservatives should embrace nuclear, not wind

Picture 10 John Webley is a retired Morgan Stanley Managing Director and is currently leading a campaign against wind turbines in rural Kent.

If the Conservatives come to power in the coming months they will inherit the consequences of Labour’s totally discredited energy policy. There has been a complete failure by the Government to ensure that the country has security of supply and it is now finally being recognised that their misguided focus on unachievable renewable energy strategies will result in energy shortfalls in the years to come. Even bullying wind fanatics such as Ed Miliband have finally smelt the coffee and are desperately attempting to plug the gaps with a long overdue expansion of nuclear capacity.

It is a matter of great concern that, within just a few months of the election, the Conservative party does not appear to have an energy policy that will address these fundamental problems and there is no evidence that the maths has been done to ensure that the lights will not go out under the Conservatives as well.

The energy policy paper on the party website, written in 2007, is entitled Power to the people, the decentralised energy revolution. This paper is lamentably short on detail. It consists of many laudable objectives but sets out a view of the world through green-tinted spectacles and there is no overall quantification of how supply will meet demand.

The second paper entitled The Low Carbon Economy again fails to provide a quantified analysis of the anticipated demand and the energy mix required to address it. Without the numbers we have no clear idea of exactly what is being proposed or whether it is credible.

To add to the increasing sense of alarm,  Zac Goldsmith, who still allows himself to be described as “one of David Cameron's closest advisers on the environment”, was quoted in the Guardian this week as saying “If the party sticks to its existing policy, it would never allow the building of a new nuclear power station.” For the party to allow exceptionally foolish statements such as this to be made to national newspapers by a “close adviser” is worrying in the extreme.

The anti-nuclear lobby has done more to slow down the fight against climate change than any other group. If a full-scale nuclear expansion had been commissioned many years ago we would not be in the mess we are currently in yet the Conservatives continue to dance around the issue, promoting a mish-mash of proposals that may or may not have some impact on energy supply and energy demand. 

The absence of a robust nuclear energy strategy by Labour has made a push towards wind inescapable. It is now proposed that billions of our pounds are thrown towards onshore and offshore wind despite the overwhelming evidence that onshore wind requires total back-up making it an economic and irresponsible nonsense. Greg Clark tells us he would go further and throw yet more money into onshore wind through bribes offered to local communities to accept onshore turbines. This would merely result in yet more turbines appearing in totally random and inappropriate areas of our countryside and it is little wonder that the British Wind Energy Association is so pleased. If the Conservatives wish to make themselves extremely unpopular this is a sure way to do it.

The simple fact is that just two of the latest generation nuclear power stations are all that would be required to generate all the electricity that would be provided by the 6,000 or so onshore turbines that are proposed by Labour and also, one assumes, by the Conservatives. Since the capacity of two such reactors would have to be in place on standby in any event to ensure security of supply at times of peak demand why go through the planning pain of building the turbines with all their collateral blight to the countryside and dwellings as well as their long term financial liability for electricity consumers?

There is little time left but the Conservatives need to be able to persuade the public that the energy crisis is well understood and that they, unlike Labour, have policies that will ensure security of an affordable supply for consumers.


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