The mere fact that a foreign territory could petulantly flick a switch and plunge part of the British isles into darkness should serve as a wake-up call for the UK and energy policy in a post-Brexit world.

Artist’s impression of a Rolls-Royce’s Small Modular Reactor (SMR) site: The company plans to install and operate “factory-built nuclear power stations” that can compete on price with low-cost renewables such as offshore wind. ROLL-ROYCE HOLDINGS PLC

[…] Having previously threatened to block UK financial firms from operating in Europe if Britain does not give French fisherman access to British waters, France is now threatening to cut off electricity supplies to Jersey over the new licensing regime for fishing off the island’s coast….

The mere fact that a foreign territory could petulantly flick a switch and plunge part of the British isles into darkness should serve as a wake-up call for the UK and energy policy in a post-Brexit world.

In a bid to drive polluting fossil fuels out of the energy system, the government has piled into renewables with clean power generating more electricity than gas and coal last year, for the first time ever.

But with the intermittent nature of wind and solar power making them less reliable, the UK has been forced to obtain increasing amounts of electricity from Europe through a network of giant subsea interconnectors – transmission cables hundreds of miles long that allow electricity to flow from one country to another – when the wind’s not blowing.

The UK currently has four active interconnectors linking it to Belgium, France, the Netherlands and the Republic of Ireland, providing about 7pc of the UK’s electricity supply but this is set to increase dramatically. =true&truncated=false&lt=false

There are plans for at least 10 more, including a 150-mile cable between Lovedean in Hampshire and Normandy costing £1.1bn that will provide another 5pc of our energy needs. The North Sea Network (NSN) interconnector – providing green electricity from Norwegian hydropower stations –  will be the longest in the world. 

Every modern country needs back-up power but if our so-called friends are willing to turn vital shared infrastructure into political weapons then the case for building energy resilience has never been more pressing

New nuclear is the obvious alternative but for too long, attempts to establish a modern nuclear power capability have floundered amid spiralling costs, opposition from green campaigners, and the geopolitical nightmare that comes with financing construction with Chinese money and Beijing’s untested technology. 

That leaves mini-nukes, a technology where Rolls-Royce already excels. They are more modern, cheaper, and greener than old nuclear power and could become a genuine export industry with proper investment. 

It would also help to revive one of Britain’s most important engineering companies after it was laid low by the sharp downturn in aviation. The case for mini-nukes to become a cornerstone of energy policy is overwhelming.

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The post Macron’s energy war threat leaves Britain facing the nuclear option appeared first on The Global Warming Policy Forum.

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May 6, 2021 by Ben Marlow, The Daily Telegraph