In here introductory speech, Ninna Commeau – Adviser to Deputy Director General, DG Energy and Transport – European Commission – clearly stated the importance for the EU to maintain and develop the nuclear energy sector.
Some years ago, speaking about nuclear energy was more or less a bad word. It was quite difficult. Even if – in the sight of the European Commission – we never push. We only applied the EURATOM treaty and we made our work to leave the options open.
Why the opinion on nuclear energy changed?
First of all, because electricity will be the leading factor of development in the energy sector in the EU. The energy demand will increase in electricity much more than in the other sectors.
Here you see from 2010 to 2020, the average increase of the demand of electricity will be 1.5% – when globally the increase of energy demand will be more or less 0.6%. So, it’s more than the double of the average. So, you understand that all the focus we had to put on electricity. There are a lot of negative aspects regarding energy in the EU because of the decrease of the energy production, because of the increase of the consumption and especially in the energy sector.
So, we need a huge amount of investment in the EU. It’s about nine hundred billion euros. More than the half should be dedicated to generation capacities. And nuclear is – regarding competitiveness – very important and should play a major role in the future.
Of course, the climate change is one of the leading factors of the evolution of mentalities and will be driving our way of living in the future. And, as you know, the recent meeting of energy ministers of G8 considered and emphasized that nuclear should play a very big role in the fight against climate change.
Whatever we like it or not, it’s a matter of fact. Nuclear will develop in the future in the rest of the world. It will develop and EU should continue to be the leader in the industrial nuclear sector.
Why there is such a new interest for nuclear technology?
Oil, if we take it as a reference the year 1999, has increased of 100%, gaz: 300% and coal: 150%. Also uranium has increased. But as you can see on this PowerPoint presentation, the cost per unit of energy contained is negligeable to the others. The price of alternative fuels is increasing. And of course since these alternative technolgies – like coal – are driven by the cost of primary fuels, nuclear energy becomes competitive in comparison. Nuclear energy price has almost the same level of price from 2002 to 2008.
Now, in Europe, if you would stop all the nuclear plants in Europe today and if you would replace them with combined technology that are the less emitting CO2, you would have 100 millions tons of CO2 emissions per year more, that is 10 % of the all CO2 emissions in Europe. […]
Q: What did you think of the conference? What did you think about the discussions?
A: I really liked it because the arguments came to the table and it was quite transparent and open. But I was not so happy about all the discussions which sometimes were repetitive, like the project [to build nuclear plants] in Italy. Many years ago we decided to go ahead. Now, we should not be discussing it but we should strick to our promises. So, I am happy to discuss these issues because I think this is the way to discuss it, but we have to move, we have to go ahead now.
Yes I am happy to discuss it but we have to move. We have to go ahead.
Q: What have been missing from the debate? What would like to have been particularly discussed more?
- What are the next steps?
- What are the needs?
- What do they ask from politics, from businesses, etc. ?
- What do they think of a better solution [instead of developing nuclear energy]?
It is not enough to say that I don’t like this one but also what is feasible for. One has also to consider what to propose, i.e. how to provide energy for 6 billion people at a low price which I believe is a real concern as a Hungarian citizen. And I believe this why other MEPs here, other citizens here, come to this event.
Q: So you are positive and optimistic about the direction? How do you see it from the view point of ENEL – development in the future in terms of new plans and more modern technology?
A: I am very optimistic because three years ago, basically ENEL had no nuclear at all. After three years ENEL now has more than 50 percent of the production from nuclear. Three years ago, it was almost impossible to talk about nuclear energy in Italy. Now we are really talking about new nuclear plants. The evolution is significantly dramatic in terms of positive signs toward nuclear. And if it goes like this, for sure we will have a positive trend toward power plants.
The important factor is also that we start a new generation of power plants that are safer and also more acceptable to the public and this is something that it is positive also for the development of the nuclear sector in Italy.
Q: Italy has recently ended the turmoil over the construction of nuclear plants. Can you tell us briefly how this is evolving? And is the view of the Italian population changing toward nuclear energy?
A: The view of the Italian population has changed in the recent years. There has been a growing interest toward nuclear energy. What has changed a lot is the political approach to nuclear energy.
Let me say that today, the legal framework still has to be developed in order to make sure that the nuclear sector can be developed in Italy. And that will take some time. It will take at least a few years to do. First of all, to set up the legal framework. Then, to set up the infrastructure. Then, it really will start with the permitting / construction phase. So, there is still a long way to the construction but the direction is correct.
It especially addressed the role of nuclear energy in the EU and tackled the following issues: Can nuclear energy contribute to the new energy goals of the EU, namely independence, sustainability and low emissions? What about its potential harmfulness to the environment? Should the EU preferably invest its money to develop the nuclear energy sector or rather keep options open? Shouldn’t renewable energies also be considered?
The debate was moderated by Pat Cox, President of the European Movement.
The introduction was made by Nina Commeau (Adviser to Deputy Director General, DG Energy and Transport – European Commission). In her introductory speech, Nina Commeau particularly underlined the importance of maintaining and developing the competitiveness of the EU in our current globalised world with energy – along with climate change – being a essential issue in this context. Nuclear energy expansion should play a major role and the EU should continue to be the leader in this industrial sector.
Below is the panel of the five speakers of the conference.
Giancarlo Aquilanti, Head of the Nuclear Technology Area, ENEL.
In his presentation, Giancarlo Aquilanti stressed on the necessity of developing nuclear energy particularly in Italy to satisfy the increasing demand.
It would appear to be the only cost-effective solution also producing very low levels of carbon dioxide emissions from its full life cycle. It would be closely comparable with renewables such as wind, solar and hydro in this respect.
Monica Frassoni, Co-President of the Greens, European Parliament
Monica Frassoni stated that nuclear energy should not be seen as the “panacea”. Indeed, nuclear energy remains a costly solution and appears to be the source of a lot of accidents. Renewable energies offers opportunities that should be more taken into consideration. You can also read her interview here.
Edit Herczog, MEP, European Socialist Party
In her PowerPoint presentation, MEP Edit Herczog noted that nuclear energy’s support from the European Parliament has significantly increased since 2004. Nuclear energy is remains high on the EP’s agenda.
- 11 purely nuclear energy 2004-2007
- 18 plenary resolutions touch on nuclear 2004-2007
Willy De Backer, Independent Energy, Environment & Ecological Economics journalist
Though admitting that nuclear energy is very important to develop, Willy De Backer underlined that it can only be a medium-term solution because:
- nuclear energy is very slow to deploy,
- is too much expansive compared to renewable energies and needs a lot of public investment,
- and finally doesn’t solve the problem of CO2 emissions.
He also stated that “we should not build our 21th century global energy system century only on one resource” and advocated for a more “decentralized energy system” exploring alternative solutions. EU Member States should keep the options open.
Bruno Comby, Writer and Founder of Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy
Stating that a major energy crisis is down the road, the environmentalist Bruno Comby stressed that “the world needs a lot more energy conservation, renewable energies and clean nuclear energy are necessary”. You can also see his interview here.
Bruno Comby, the founder of Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy, propagates a radically pro-nuclear approach:
There is no major problem with nuclar power: It is clean, it takes very little things from the earth; it is safe, because a lot of money and attention is paid to safety; it is reliable, because it can provide the energy that our world needs; and it is ecological, above all, because it can solve the problem of global warming and provide the electricity and power that our world needs to replace the old oil and gas right now. (…) In fact, it is the only solution we have that solves both the problem of energy security, which is a major problem – we are running into a major energy crisis right now – and climate change.
Listen to the full interview with Bruno Comby here: comby.mp3
In this debate, there is a lot of myth and a lot of lies, and this is a sort of whipped cream coming up. (…) First of all, it is absolutely not true that there are numerous nuclear power plants in construction or foreseen in Europe. (…) In the foreseeable future, there will not be an increase in the production of nuclear power, even if the dreams of those who want more nuclar power were realised.
It is very strange that we are talking about a new answer to climate change, to oil shortage, following a technology that not only is old, not only is costly, not only is difficult, but it is also a technology that is not that powerful, because it does not really answer to more than 17% of the electricity need at the global level.
Listen to the full interview with Monica Frassoni here (mp3; 7:30 min, 2 MB): frassoni.mp3
If you have problems listening to the interview in the embedded mp3 player, please click on the link next to it to download the file to your desktop and listen to it in your player of preference.
As fuel prices for coal, natural gas and nuclear continue to rise, the cost of solar power is due to break even with fossil fuels in the US by 2015, according to a study published in June 2008.
The studyPdf external , compiled by clean-tech research and publishing firm Clean Edge and green-economy non-profit Co-op America, predicts that the cost of energy produced from solar photovoltaic cells will decline from today’s average of $6 per peak watt to an average of just $1.5 in 2025. This, together with the advantages of solar energy (zero carbon-based emissions, energy delivered at source, zero fuel costs), should make solar a “ubiquitous” energy source in the future, says the study.
The EU has set itself a target of producing 20% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, although no specific commitments on solar have been included. Studies indicate the contribution made by solar to be modest, with the European Renewable Energy Council suggesting it will contribute little more than 1% by 2020 (EurActiv 20/06/07).
But Alisa Gravitz, Co-op America’s executive director and the project director of the study, believes that as “capital and fuel costs have doubled or tripled for coal, natural gas and nuclear power over the past few years, solar power costs are coming down”. She adds: “For the first time in history, cost-competitive solar power is now within the planning horizon of every utility in the nation.”
Based on findings, it calls on the US to reach a standard of 10% solar by 2025. It sees a need for action to be taken by utilities, solar companies and regulators alike.
It suggests utility companies should take advantage of solar energy to ease grid congestion at peak hours and adapt to new market realities with new business models. Additionally, it calls for solar companies to scale down solar system costs to around $3 per peak watt by 2018 (currently at around $6) and streamline installations by making them a “plug-and-play technology”.
Regulators and policymakers should implement long-term investmentlong-term investment and “production tax credits” for the renewables sector, it says. Utility companies should be given the opportunity to rate-base solar energy and set up open standards for solar interconnectivity.
However, the cost of achieving the stated goal of 10% solar by 2025 “is not small”, according to the report. It calls for $560 billion to be invested in that time period, equalling around $33 billion a year.
Published by Euractiv