The British Minister of State for Energy and the Climate Charles Hendry talks to The Ukrainian Week about independent regulators for nuclear energy and about ways to raise its effectiveness.
U.W.: Chornobyl, Fukusima and climate change are problems that are all related. Renewable energy resources are expensive and as a consequence not readily available. Decisions to not develop nuclear energy result in the development of thermal power plants and this increases the greenhouse effect. How can this dilemma be solved?
Global demand for energy tends to increase. This means that great demand for oil, gas and coal will remain for many years. Consequently, we have to find ways to mitigate carbon emissions. Great Britain, I think, is already leading the world in carbon capture and storage. We’ve got the world's largest pilot project for catching carbon on old coal-fired power stations that emits gas. This project is moving forward. We have allocated a billion pounds into the project, involved best technologies, scientists and some companies that are respected worldwide. So, in this respect there is a way in which coal and gas can be given a long-time future. Talking about nuclear power programs in the United Kingdom, we already have programs on the peaceful atom and would like to move forward. Though we are ready to learn all the lessons from what is happening in Japan and are opened for all changes.
U.W.: Could you be more specific? What changes do you mean?
I think that the greatest lessons we learned from Chornobyl are: how human resources should be evacuated, how to introduce technological changes to stop any power failures, etc. So, there has been a crucial amount of progress. And, indeed, since the Fukushima power plant was built, nuclear reactors have moved 50 years in terms of security and safety. So, what our independent nuclear inspectorate will look at is how to assure more resilient back-up supplies to the cooling system in particular and safe locations. We do not have earthquakes and tsunamis in the UK. We do have storms and floods instead. So, there are other issues we have to be able to address in relation to the resilience of plants in times of extreme weather. But it is not for me as minister to deal with that. It will be done independently, because this is the best way to reassure the public.
U.W.: How much do you expect prices to rise if plants implement technologies for carbon capture and storage?
We are looking at the pilot project to find out – first of all – if we can technically do it. And only via this project will we be able to identify exactly what the costs might be, because we will probably get different technologies. So, the first technology we should look at will require a traditional coal plant. Once the coal is burnt, the carbon will be separated. There are other technologies. So we will cooperate more with other countries on this issue. This is not Great Britain against the rest of the world. This is a global challenge. We have to decarbonize the electricity system.
U.W.: What tools do you have to motivate entrepreneurs and make them more energy conscious and get them to use alternative resources?
We have introduced the carbon price and we tax enterprises for excessive carbon emissions. This will drive businesses to look at better ways of using their resources and reduce their carbon emissions. In terms of specific government funding, we look at ways to enable people to access private sector funding where they get the benefits of energy efficiency before they start paying. The costs are paid back in 20-25 years but they get all benefits on the first day. We have put in place a feed-in tariff. Every unit of electricity you generate – you get money for that. And it is set for 20 years.
Charles Hendry, British Conservative Party politician and the Member of Parliament (MP) for Wealden, was born in 1959 in Sussex.
Graduated from the University of Edinburgh. In 2001 became Member of Parliament.
In May 2010 he was appointed Minister of State for the Department of Energy and Climate Change.