The Times: Sizewell C faces six-year emissions lag

Sizewell C faces six-year emissions lag
Emily Gosden Energy Editor
Tuesday August 25 2020,

A proposed new nuclear plant in Suffolk could take six years to offset the greenhouse gas emissions generated in its construction, EDF has admitted.

The French energy group estimates that 5.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide will be emitted in the nine to twelve years that it will take to build the Sizewell C plant.

It argues that this is “small in comparison to the savings that would be achieved once the power station becomes operational, when the station will be displacing more carbon-intensive energy from the national grid”.

In publicity material, EDF claims that Sizewell C will “save nine million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions for every year of its operation”, based on it replacing gas-fired power plants.

However, in planning documents it admits that the actual savings may be far lower. By the time that the proposed plant is built, Britain’s power mix is expected to be far greener, as more wind and solar farms are built.

Compared with “the likely estimated mix of energy generation sources” at the time, this would result in Sizewell C displacing only a million tonnes of CO2 in 2034, “the first year of operation”, EDF states. On this basis, the energy company “conservatively” estimates that the construction emissions “will be offset within the first six years of operation”.

Alison Downes, of Stop Sizewell C, said this meant that it would be 2040 before the plant was “making a positive contribution to the UK’s net zero targets . . . EDF’s revelation that it will be 20 years before Sizewell C is built and has paid off the carbon from its construction exposes what a hopeless — as well as expensive and risky — solution it is to our urgent climate crisis.”

National Grid has said that it plans to be able to run Britain’s power network with entirely “zero carbon” electricity by 2025 whenever there is sufficient renewable generation to do so — well before Sizewell C starts up.

EDF stood by its nine million tonnes savings figure. “Sizewell C will start making a substantial contribution to net zero from the moment it begins generating, well before 2040.

“It will continue to do so during at least 60 years of operation,” a spokesman said.