Memorandum submitted by Dr N K Tovey,
(HSBC Director of Low Carbon Innovation at the University of East
This submission has been prepared while the
author has been in China and is thus less complete than it might
have been. It begins with a consideration of likely capacity requirements
and demand for electricity in the UK by 2025. It then considers
three separate scenarios in which all future non-renewable generation
comes from (a) gas, (b), nuclear, and (c) coal. There is also
an option with a variable mix of 40% gas, 40% coal and 20% nuclear
for all new generation plant.
The submission has been written while the author
is overseas and represents some aspects of ongoing research at
the University of East Anglia.
The aim of this submission is to investigate
whether it is possible to foresee a non-nuclear future and if
this is so what strategies are needed to ensure that this takes
place. The conclusion of this submission is that it will now be
very difficult, although not impossible to avoid new nuclear power
stations. To achieve a non-nuclear future will require substantive
urgent action. On the other hand, in the longer term, the time
frame is such that alternatives strategies will be possible. The
critical period is between now and 2025 not the longer term time
An Appendix discusses the issues relating to
the future demand for electricity and these may be summarised
The future requirement for generating capacity
is shown in Table 1. The business as usual growth following historic
trends and will be referred to as the High Growth Case. The Low
Growth Case, follows the discussion on the overall demand in the
Appendix and will see further increases in capacity requirements
saturate over next 5-10 years in line with the Low Growth Demand
Both Cases assume that there is a high deployment
of renewables achieving the Government Targets. Current trends
in renewables are well below these targets and might be seen to
be optimistic unless there are changes in policy.
The reasons behind the choices of the figures
in this section are covered in the Appendix and summarised here.
There has been a steady growth in the demand
for electricity since 1982 at a compound rate of 1.82%. This would
imply a demand of around 550-560 TWh in 2025. This represents
the high growth rate. For the low growth rate the minimum indicated
in the Appendix for GDP effects alone is 432 TWH, and on top of
this there are populations effects as discussed above. For a low
growth scenario it has been assumed that the historic growth rate
will slow rapidly over the next five years and stabilise at around
420 TWH after 2011. After this time it would be necessary to have
a compound annual reduction of 0.3% per household to hold things
stable. This low growth scenario would be a challenge to implement.
The analysis of future demand looks at both
the high growth and the low growth. The critical scenario is the
low growth scenario with a high renewables component. If this
scenario makes it impossible to achieve without some nuclear build,
then all other scenarios will inevitably mean that a nuclear component
will be needed. On the other hand it is possible that new nuclear
build can be avoided in the low growth scenario.
Historically the majority of electricity was
generated from coal fired stations with nuclear seeing an increasing
role from the mid 1960s and peaking at 26% of the total output
in the late 1990s. Already there has been a reduction in generation
capacity and the rate of this reduction is scheduled to accelerate
in the next few years with only Sizewell B available in 2025 under
current plans. Most of the coal fired stations are also due for
renewal in the next 10-15 years. Oil fired stations were built
in the 1970s and apart from the miners' strike in 1985 have been
little used and are unlikely to see any resurgence above the current
1-2% generation. Gas fired generation using CCGT generation rose
rapidly from nothing in 1991 to the present level around 35%.
Since the mid 1990s, and with the exception of a few small plant
with other fuels, the only stations constructed have been on the
Several scenarios have been investigated for
both the high and low growth situations with a further consideration
that each of the scenarios includes a moderate growth in renewable
generation and a high growth. The moderate growth in renewables
represents 7.5% deployment in 2010 and 15% in 2020. Currently
the deployment in renewables is well below these levels and even
further below the Government target to reach the planned 10.4%
by 2010 and the aspiration for 20% in 2020. The high growth renewables
assumes that the Government targets are indeed met, but this would
need a significant change in attitude both on the part of the
Government, Local Planners, and most of all the general public
if these higher targets are to be met.
Before 2010 no new non renewable generation
can be built unless the station is already in pipe line. The increase
in demand each year significantly exceeds the increase in renewable
provision, and that is without the significant nuclear closures
Three fundamental scenarios have been considered
ie the "gas scenario" where all future new and replacement
generation is by gas, a similar scenario with coal, and the third
with nuclear. These are extreme scenarios but allow the range
of issues such as carbon emissions to be addressed. A final scenario
with a more rational combination is then considered under the
heading of "variable Mix". This was set as 40% coal,
40% gas, and 20% nuclear, but other options are, of course possible,
but could not be completed in the time frame involved.
The results of the scenarios are summarised
in Tables 2 and 3 and Figures 1 and 2.
To simplify the discussion it is assumed that
the government Targets for renewable generation are met. There
is very little probability that the 2010 target will be met and
so this discussion is an optimistic view of the outcome.
In the nuclear and coal scenarios,
gas will still have a significant requirement. At best the requirement
will be reduced by 18% (34 to 28 bcm) on projected 2005 requirements
in the high growth scenario and 27% (34 to 25 bcm) in the low
growth scenario. Currently gas imports are rising and an increase,
and even with these lower demands, there will be a significant
requirement for imported gas in the future.
With a gas only scenario, the requirement
will rise substantially at time when increasing amount must be
imported. In the high growth scenario the increase in demand will
be 250% above 2005 levels while for the variable mix scenario
there will be a modest increase from 34 bcm to 38 bcm (approximately
There is a serious security issue
with respect to the gas scenario. Even with the low growth the
demand for gas still rises substantially.
50% of coal is now imported, and
substantial increases in coal imports will be required in the
coal scenario unless more UK production is brought back into operation.
The need for imports once again raises a question on security.
However, the supply base for coal is much more diverse and security
issues are much reduced.
The nuclear only option would require
as many as 45 new nuclear stations by 2025 in the high growth
scenario and 28 in the low growth, even then it would be at a
much lower level than France. However, such a rate of building
is likely to be difficult to justify to the general public, and
would require an almost immediate decision to go this route. On
the other hand such an option would retain overall fuel source
A variable mix of new generation
is probably the most sensible, and this could involve a mixture
of two or all three of the primary fuel sources.
Renewable generation is not keeping
pace with the increase in demand, and with the demise of the current
generation of nuclear, there will be an increased fossil fuel
component in 2025 compared to the present unless there is a new
The projections for carbon emissions given in
the tables assume that there are emissions associated with the
production of nuclear electricity (most studies omit these effects).
In the high growth scenario only the nuclear option provides a
substantial reduction. In the low growth scenario, all except
the coal scenario will achieve significant cuts in emissions,
but the gas scenario will only do so with a significant increase
in gas consumption raising security issues. In none of these scenarios
was carbon capture included for either gas and coal. While possible
on a localised scale, the infrastructure needed for transmitting
captured carbon from a widely scattered group of power station
to the place of disposal in redundant oil wells is a major technical
and financial challenge and unlikely to be substantially in place
much before 2020. For this reason it has been largely discounted
in the analysis.
In 1994, Dorling and Tovey completed a study
indicating that the embedded carbon emissions for nuclear were
around 15 gms per kWh and of the same general range as for other
fossil fuel stations and this figure was reputed as being comparable
with Wind generation. The actual value quoted does depend on methodology
used, but all technologies seem to have embedded emissions which
are around 10% of those from gas generation and are also comparable
to each other. In this case the question of embedded carbon by
the different technologies is to a large extent irrelevant in
the overall discussion of operating life carbon emissions.
In the long term, there is no doubt that a sustainable
future could be achieved with the use of renewables, backed up
by some conventional generation. However, the time scale when
this can be achieved is much greater than the critical time scale
of the next 20 years.
The UK Government policy is to reduce carbon
dioxide emissions and this can only be achieved without a nuclear
component if either:
(a) there is a far greater increase in all
renewables way above the present unattainable targets which seems
unlikely in the short term, or
(b) there is a variable mix involving the
building of some new nuclear stations coupled with a substantial
programme to reduce demand, noting that because of population
changes we need to reduce by 18% merely to stand still and that
also allows no economic growth, or
(c) there is a substantial increase in the
reliance of gas for generation which will lead to serious security
The decisions for the way forward are difficult
but must not be delayed. There must be a guarantee, not merely
targets for the delivery of renewables. The Government should
also allow energy prices to rise to allow the exploitation in
a cost effect way of those renewables and energy conservation
options which are currently priced out the market. To do this,
the Government should remove the Fuel Poverty objective from Energy
Policy and tackle Fuel Policy by other means.
Finally, in a recent document, British Energy
have raised the possibility of an extended life for the Advanced
Gas Cooled Reactors. Currently these are planned for closure after
a life span which is, in some cases significantly less than the
older Magnox reactors. The possibility of an extended life span
of 5-10 years for such reactors should be considered in any discussion
for a future nuclear build. If this indeed were possible it would
reduce the urgency of any decision and also provide a longer time
scale in which to exploit renewables. However, it is unlikely
that such a policy will remove the need completely for new nuclear
build unless there is a guarantee on delivery of renewables and
the strategies outlined above in this section are met.
FUTURE DEMAND FOR ELECTRICITY
Future demand for electricity will be affected
by a number of factors including:
(ii) decreasing household size,
(iii) the move towards digital television,
(iv) the increased use of appliances
and decorative lighting,
(v) increased use of standby and quasi-standby
(vi) technical energy conservation measures,
(vii) energy conservation by awareness
(viii) fuel switching strategies in
end use applications,
(ix) changes in electricity use in Public
Administration, Health, and Education,
(x) changes in electricity use the commercial
(xi) changes in electricity use in the
All of these affect overall future total demand
of electricity but some of the more critical are discussed below.
A detailed analysis could be developed by investigating each separate
aspect. A discussion of how most of these s affect consumption
is included in the appendix.
The population of the UK has risen from 55.9
million in 1971 to 59.987 million in 2003. The rate of increase
from 1971 to 1995 was 0.15% per annum, but since that time the
rate has increased to 0.3% over half of which arise from a net
inward migration. If the current rate continues then by 2025 the
population will reach 66 M. If changes affecting migration take
place, then a saturation of around 63.2 million might be achieved
as a lower estimate. A realistic estimate will place the figure
somewhere between at around 64.6 million or 8.5% higher than in
2003. For a comparable energy use per capita this will result
in an increase of 8.5%.
In 1971 the household size was 2.91 persons
per household while by 2003 this had fallen to 2.3 or 0.61 persons
per household over 35 years. Though the decrease is levelling
off it is unlikely the household size is unlikely to be above
2.10-2.15 persons by 2025.
The demand for electricity in the domestic sector
has a better correlation with the number of households than with
the population. There will only tend to be one of each of the
white goods appliances per household for instance and use of the
black entertainment goods (although partly affected by number
of individuals) will still be affected by number of households.
Commercial and Public Administration, Health and Education will
perhaps be more affected by number of individuals, but industrial
use will once again be more a function of households than population
(white good and car production). Using the mean population estimate
for 2025 and the projected household size gives the number of
households as 30.4 millionan increase of 17.4%.
This would imply that if per household use remained
constant we would require 17.4% electricity by 2025. If we recognise
that part of the correlation is with population rather than household
then the increase will be lessperhaps around 13-15%.
The current policy to move towards digital television
broadcasts will see more set top boxes which on average are consuming
between 10 and 15 watts. If each household had just one such box
this would represent 1% of total electricity demand by 2025. If
there are more than one box the figure would be proportionally
higher. Digital televisions even with flat screens are consuming
more energy than most no digital devices so there is a further
There has been a noticeable reduction in electricity
demand per cooling appliance. However, there is now as trend towards
larger such devices (eg the American Style). The present rating
system is now confusing and inconsistent and it is unlikely that
much further improvement will occur unless the Government persuades
the EU to change the scheme. Areas or particular contention are:
(i) Frost free appliances use more energy
than non-frost free, but retailers usually confuse customers that
these are more energy efficient. Consumers are confused because
a frost free appliance can consume 20% more energy for a given
(ii) The rating system is more related total
size rather than total consumption. Thus an "A" rated
American machine has often a higher consumption than an inferior
rated European one at "C".
There is scope of technical improvement still
(eg the use of vacuum insulation panels), but these are unlikely
to be commercially available in the quantities needed and almost
certainly not unless the above legislation is addressed. With
life spans of around 15 years, it is unlikely that much further
improvements will be achieved. The thicker insulation now typical
(ie and increase from around 37 to around 75 mm reduced heat gain
by over 50%, but a further increase of the same thickness will
have much less effect. Further more the issue of actual use (opening
the door) then comes a major barrier to further reduction.
In the case of lighting, there has been a substantial
increase in the use of spot lights as decorative lighting and
this is more than counteracting the increase in the use of low
energy light bulbs. There is also evidence of resistance by some
because "they do not look like a normal light bulb"
While there is scope for reduction, there are
some legislative barriers which must be address if reductions
are to be seen. As it is the likely savings arising from improvements
in cooling and LED lighting will be offset by increased desire
for larger appliances or decorative spot lights. Unless there
is a major change in attitudes, it will be difficult to see anything
better than a stabilising of electricity consumption per household.
The standby on appliances can be a significant
proportion of total use. In the case of televisions more can be
consumed when a person is asleep and not watching than when actually
watching. The IEA "1 Watt" initiative for low standby
consumption is welcomed, but even if implemented immediately would
take 10-15 years to become fully effective, and in the meantime
many more appliance will have such standby, thereby reducing potential
Recent studies at the University of East Anglia
have shown that computers often use more energy when idle than
when activeovernight use on computers in the 24 hour suite
show the highest demand overnight when fewer people are using
them. Further more the software "Turn Off" on all generations
of operating system post Windows 98 in actual practice does not
turn of the computerin fact a residual consumption of 12-15
watts is not uncommon representing up to 150 kWh a year per device.
This is because the switch is on the low voltage side of the transformer.
Technical conservation measures such as insulation
etc will have limited impact as the majority of heating is not
through the use of electricity. Furthermore where direct acting
electric fires are used, these are often in non-central heated
homes which are poorly insulated. Much of the benefit of insulation
in such premises comes from improved thermal comfort and a reduction
of hypothermia rather than a saving in electricity. Some preliminary
studies done suggest that only 25% of theoretical saving is actually
achieved because of this improved thermal comfort issue.
Improved awareness can have significant benefits.
A concerted effort on a single day saw a reduction of 25%+ in
electricity demand in a building at UEA. However, this saving
could not be maintained and this presents a particularly difficulty
challenge to educate the general public. This is also seen in
other areas of energy consumption, the most evident of which is
the substantial rise in the use of 4 x 4 vehicles.
Switching from electric central heating to other
forms will reduce electricity demand. However, in conserving energy
resources as a whole and also reducing carbon emissions there
is no better way than by using heat pumps. However, these use
electricity. As a result we will see the paradox of a reduction
in energy demand and carbon emissions but coupled with an increase
in demand for electricity.
Electric cars are significantly more efficient
in the use of fuel than the internal combustion or diesel engine
even allowing for the inefficiencies in the power station. An
increase in these vehicles will mean an increase in demand for
Overall in the domestic sector, with the increasing
number of households and the likely increase in the use of heat
pumps and electric vehicles, it will be very difficult to even
stabilise the total demand for electricity yet alone reduce it.
This is despite several technical potentials, but these are often
counteracted by social desires.
The GDP of the UK rose from £476 billion
in 1970 to £1,009 billion in 2003 at a rate of 2.3% compound
per annum. These figures are normalised to 2000 prices. If this
rate of increase continue the GDP will reach £1,664 billion
in 2025. If the average rate were to fall to 1.5%, the GDP would
be £1,422 billion or £1,543 billion for a mean increase
Though business activity has been increasing
at this rate, the demand for electricity has been growing at almost
half this rate indicating the wealth is being generated more effectively
as time progresses. In 1970 the electricity associated with £1
of GDP was 0.478 kWh. By 2003 this figure had fallen to 0.374
kWh on a trend line with a high correlation which would suggest
a value of close to 0.300 kWh by 2025. On this basis, the present
trend would forecast about 495 TWH as the demand in 2025 if GDP
continues to grow at the present rate. If the growth falls as
low as 1.5% growth then the projected demand would be 433 TWH,
while at 1.9% growth it would be 463 TWH. These projected levels
are lower than that projected from a simple extension of present
growth rates which also allow for population changes.
An alternative way to examine future demand
is to examine past trends. There has been a steady growth in the
demand for electricity since 1982 at a compound rate of 1.82%.
This would imply a demand of around 550-560 TWh in 2025 and represents
the high growth rate.
For the low growth rate the minimum indicated
above for GDP effects alone is 432 TWH, and on top of this there
are populations effects as discussed above. For a low growth scenario
it has been assumed that the historic growth rate will slow rapidly
over the next five years and stabilise at around 420 TWH after
2011. After this time it would be necessary to have a compound
annual reduction of 0.3% per household to hold things stable.
This low growth scenario would be a challenge to implement and
would require innovation in business. The analysis of future demand
in the main body of the submission looks at both the high growth
and the low growth.
18 September 2005