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Is the UK's energy policy fit for purpose?

University of Manchester

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IMAGE: 'Business as usual' is not an option for the UK's nuclear energy sector; our energy companies' 'regressive and unjust funding approach' is causing fuel poverty, and the Northern Powerhouse could... view more 

Credit: The University of Manchester

Business as usual' is not an option for the UK's nuclear energy sector; our energy companies' 'regressive and unjust funding approach' is causing fuel poverty, and the Northern Powerhouse could play a key role in shaping the UK's climate change future.

These are just some of the opinions in a new publication, 'On Energy: How can evidence inform future energy policy?', by The University of Manchester. It is being launched on Wednesday 8th November at the House of Commons.

The report brings together some of the country's leading energy, policy, and climate change scientists, academics and experts to offer their opinions and solutions for the UK's most pressing energy issues.

The publication draws on expertise from across The University of Manchester and external collaborators, including Lord Jim O'Neill, Director of the Dalton Nuclear Institute, Professor Francis Livens, leading climate change researcher, Professor Alice Larkin and SUPERGEN Bioenergy Hub Director, Professor Patricia Thornley.

On the UK's nuclear policy, Professor Livens and his co-authors from DNI, Professors Tim Abram, Juan Matthews and Richard Taylor, say the industry needs to recognise that its competitors in the renewable sector, such as wind, solar and wave, are substantially cheaper. To combat this he says more innovation is needed to reduce the cost if it is to be taken seriously as an alternative to fossil fuels.

They say: 'We can argue forever about the importance of baseload reliability, which nuclear gives you and renewables don't, but does that reliability really justify nuclear being 50% more costly? Nuclear has to look at its costs.'

Estimates for decommissioning the 'nuclear legacy', an issue 'dominated by Sellafield', range from £120 billion to £220 billion.

They added: 'Sellafield, like life, is complicated. Its fate is determined by real people and it is governed by the laws of unintended consequence. So how do we harness the power of innovation in this environment?

'We must do everything differently, our technology, our governance, our regulation, our public engagement and anything else that define the decommissioning challenge as a project in our society.'

The report also tackles the issue of fuel poverty and energy justice in a low carbon society. Dr Harriet Thomson, Honorary Research Fellow in the School of Environment, Education and Development, says: 'The human and societal costs of fuel poverty are extensive, resulting in worsened physical and mental health, increased usage of health services, and social isolation. Reducing carbon emissions and alleviating fuel poverty are both vitally important policy goals, but they have the potential to be in conflict.'

On the potential for the Northern Powerhouse to drive economic growth through a focus on its prime capabilities, Lord Jim O'Neill added: 'The North's civic and business leaders have identified four areas where the North of England has genuine world class economic competitive potential, and one of these is alternative energies.'

There are many key areas in the setcor which require a greater scrutiny to create sensible polices and drive effective solutions to address the energy and environment challenges. This report highlights some of the key pressing topics.

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Notes to Editor

The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the various authors and do not represent the views of The University of Manchester.

The University of Manchester, a member of the prestigious Russell Group, is the UK's largest single-site university with 38,600 students and is consistently ranked among the world's elite for graduate employability.

The University is also one of the country's major research institutions, rated fifth in the UK in terms of 'research power' (REF 2014). World class research is carried out across a diverse range of fields including cancer, advanced materials, addressing global inequalities, energy and industrial biotechnology.

No fewer than 25 Nobel laureates have either worked or studied here.

It is the only UK university to have social responsibility among its core strategic objectives, with staff and students alike dedicated to making a positive difference in communities around the world.

Manchester is ranked 35th in the world in the Academic Ranking of World Universities 2016 and 5th in the UK. The University had an annual income of almost £1 billion in 2015/16.

Visit http://www.manchester.ac.uk for further information.

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