Rupert Lewis, Policy & Communications at Nuclear Industry Association, dwells on the need to build a balance before sparking the electric car revolution.

How to power the electric car revolution? Illustration from CTEK Battery Chargers
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The distinction between energy and electricity has blurred once again with the UK government’s decision to ban the sale of all diesel and petrol cars after 2040 to help spark an electric car revolution.


My daily battle charging my iPhone doesn’t fill me with much confidence relying on a battery for my car, but with the wider policy aim to deliver cleaner emissions and cleaner air, the decision has largely been well received.


Some questioned the technology and others pointed to the precondition of the private Nissan Brexit deal, but it mirrors a decision taken in France and this is not a discussion for the merits of battery technology, global warming or Brexit issues in the automotive industry.


Instead, the interest in the nuclear sector is how the UK will increase its generating capacity to meet the demand created by the inevitable electric car power surge.


Today, there are more than 30 million cars on the UK’s roads and although not all will be replaced by 2040, the National Grid estimates electric vehicle ownership could increase from one million in the early 2020s to nine million by 2030.


National Grid also concludes in its Future Energy Scenarios report that electricity demand could be as high as 85GW in 2050 compared to 60GW today.


So how do you make sure there is enough capacity on the grid, especially when you consider between 2010 and 2030, the UK will have lost 65% of its centrally despatchable electricity generating capacity.


To start with, this new capacity won’t be driven by gas and coal. Future governments may choose to do this, but the stupidity of using fossil fuels to generate clean electric cars is surely just too obviously bungling for any administration.


We shall wait and see but presuming the increased capacity will be met by low carbon technologies, nuclear will play a vitally important role. Nuclear provides the balance to intermittent renewables and ensures electricity is always available, ready to meet the demand.


This has been proved by the latest Digest of UK Energy Statistics released by the government. In 2016, nuclear produced electricity for 77% of the time, in comparison, the overall wind load factor was 29%, and the load factor for solar was 11%.


With a policy aim towards more and more low carbon generation it means a greater amount of generation capacity will need to be built to balance out the inherent intermittency of renewables.


The UK’s electricity challenge is clearly enormous and with the added pressure of this new electric policy, the full range of low carbon sources will be required.


There is no one single, silver bullet solution but as the demand for electricity grows, the UK must deliver its current nuclear new build plans and more to ensure the electric car revolution can be powered.


Rupert Lewis

Rupert Lewis, Policy & Communications at Nuclear Industry Association.