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Last Updated: Friday, 11 January 2008, 19:25 GMT
Energy solution is in the balance
richard coackley
By Richard Coackley
Managing Director, White Young Green Energy

Britain has a major energy crisis looming and tough decisions are needed that balance cost and supply with environmental considerations.

The decisions we make now will impact on our children and our children's children. We need a bold vision which delivers energy safely, cleanly and reinforces our global leadership and commitment to carbon neutral living.

In designing this future, the debate is focused on nuclear - should we have it, is it safe, and can we afford it?

The energy debate seems fixed on nuclear

But in many respects, this heated nuclear debate is missing one of the most important points - the future for energy is mixed.

It is not one source at the expense of another.

Each type of energy supply has a role to play, certainly for the foreseeable future.

And in the midst of the debate, energy conservation is often overlooked, in spite of the fact that conservation offers a very sustainable and practical method of energy management.

As such, any future long term energy strategy - and we really do need to focus on the long term - must increase energy efficiencies in homes, offices, the surrounding built environment and our transportation systems.

There is also considerable passion for renewable energy in spite of the fact that energy from wind, wave, tidal and solar is irregular and often unreliable.

Society wants energy on demand, yet a cruel irony, again often overlooked, is that energy cannot be stored.

Carbon capture

One of the most efficient renewable energy sources is hydro-power, and it is good to see Scotland taking a lead in this area.

The energy supply crisis is compounded by the fact that a significant number of coal, gas and nuclear stations are or soon will be coming to the end of their lives.

This presents a great opportunity for a bold new long term vision.

A realistic strategy must deliver energy on time, on demand, with manageable risk, and close to where it is needed.

Carbon capture and storage remains an innovative dream with no full-scale complete prototype tested.

However, this should form part of our bold vision and global commitment.

wind farm
There is considerable passion for renewable energy

In addition, the massive reduction of energy losses through heat loss in our coal-fired power stations must be tapped through combined heat and power systems.

This is equally bold, but receives little interest due to the manner in which energy generation is priced.

And while gas will continue to be a major player for many years, it is being increasingly imported, creating risks to our security of supply.

Looking ahead, everyone is asking - can Scotland survive in a nuclear-free energy zone?

The politicians are saying "Yes", but the reality is, nobody really knows whether nuclear will be part of the Scottish energy map in 2030.

Cleaner processes

The fact is, nuclear power plays a key role right now in Britain and many of the nuclear stations will continue to produce energy for the next decade at least.

The next generation of efficient nuclear units produce one tenth of the waste produced by the current plants.

In terms of efficiency, this next generation of nuclear plants could play a key role in tackling the energy supply problem.

From an engineering perspective, the solution is not one energy source rather than another.

It will be a balanced portfolio of energy strategies, new technologies, new energy sources, cleaner processes and definitely nuclear.

If the energy supply and management problem was entrusted to engineers, Scotland would undoubtedly remain in the nuclear age.

New nuclear plants get go-ahead
10 Jan 08 |  UK Politics
Q&A: Nuclear power plans
10 Jan 08 |  UK Politics
Ministers hail nuclear decision
10 Jan 08 |  Scotland

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