A short film about climate change and energy
We all know that, to stop climate change, we need to stop burning fossil fuels. The government says we need nuclear power to do this. Our new film explains why nuclear power can’t stop climate change – and lays down a better, cheaper, more convenient solution:
Convinced? Find out what you can do to make sure the UK gets a genuinely clean and efficient energy system.
Not convinced yet? Read on.
The single biggest use of fossil fuels in the UK isn't for electricity or for transport, but for creating heat to warm our buildings and power our industrial processes. So any solution to climate change needs to contribute to heating, as well as to electricity generation.
Nuclear power contributes almost nothing to our enormous heating requirements. In fact it contributes less than four per cent to our overall energy needs. And building new nuclear power stations (as the government wants to do) won't increase that share.
So what is the solution? Well, in the same amount of time and for less money, we could implement an energy system that will do far more to stop climate change and ensure energy security than nuclear power: a combination of renewable energy, efficiency, and combined heat and power:
Our windswept island has more than enough wind, wave and tidal power potential to meet all of our energy needs many times over. Between them, wind, wave and tidal power could deliver more than twice as much electricity than the proposed new fleet of nuclear reactors in the same timeframe - and the renewable energy sources would come online more quickly, require no fuel and won’t have the danger or cost of the nuclear waste.
"Energy efficiency isn't just a free lunch," said Amory Lovins, "it's a lunch you are paid to eat." Because of inefficient buildings and appliances, every year we throw away more than eight times the amount of energy supplied by all of the UK's nuclear power stations combined. Simple efficiency measures can reduce our need for both heat and power, lowering our dependency on gas imports far more than nuclear power ever could, while saving consumers £12 billion every year. Implementing these measures would save more money that it costs.
Combined heat and power (CHP)
But most of the waste in our electricity system happens before it even reaches us. Our power stations throw away two-thirds of the energy they generate – they throw out enough "waste" heat to keep every building in the UK nice and warm, and to provide the hot water too. If power stations are sited near towns and cities or on industrial sites, then this heat can be captured and used in the nearby homes or on the factory site.
These combined heat and power (CHP) plants provide both heat and power, only take a few years to build and just a relatively small number of the largest scale units can provide the same electricity as the proposed new nuclear power plants.
Because CHP can run efficiently off all sorts of fuels, they’re crucial for our transition away from fossil fuels towards clean fuels like biomass. This is where the beer bit comes in. While the government dithers, companies like Manchester’s Royal Brewery (home of Fosters) are taking the initiative by installing CHP to generate their own heat and electricity. The brewery is upgrading its CHP plant, so that it can be fuelled entirely by biomass, including the spent grain used in the brewing process.
The way we generate energy right now is downright crazy – we’re using inefficient and archaic technologies that mean we end up throwing away far more energy that we actually use. The government’s energy consultation is a chance to introduce a rational, clean and efficient energy system that will stop climate change and ensure energy security. But instead of taking the opportunity, the government seems to want to push us into an even more irrational and archaic system that will do almost nothing to stop climate change or ensure energy security: nuclear power.
Getting a genuinely clean and efficient energy system in the UK has never been more important. We don't have time to make mistakes. Our volunteers have been visiting MPs across the country for months to get the word out but now we need your help to pile on the pressure before the energy consultation closes.
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