What are we here for?

6 November 2019


Jeremy Gordon


Fluent in Energy

In any endeavour it is important to be clear about your motivations – the reasons 'why' you do what you do. Keeping these needs, values and principles in mind will guide your decision making and maintain your drive to reach the goal, whether it be large or small. This clarity of purpose is especially important for very long timescale projects as well as any moments when you are forced to make compromises along the way.

As energy professionals we are clear that our highest priority is to provide the power and fuel that society needs on a daily basis, and, in addition, a small amount of headroom for growth and contingency. This ensures that people have the freedom to both live their lives and to efficiently get on with their chosen work. 

Beyond those tangible needs some deeper reasons for excellence in the energy industry come into focus. Getting our work right in the energy sector means that society avoids a lot of problems, such as expensive imports of energy and fuel, as well as the insecurity that comes with relying too much on other jurisdictions. Low emission sources of power like wind, nuclear and solar decisively cut the pollution which would otherwise harm our health and further accelerate changes to the climate, which are already alarming. 

Lastly, seeing as we have this method of generating electricity using nuclear reactors, there are specific benefits that come with using it. For example, nuclear facilities create longer lasting jobs, which on average are better paid and more highly skilled than those in most other industries. There are almost 64,000 of these desirable jobs for UK workers both inside the industry and in the ecosystem of manufacturing and services that support it, with around 7000 roles coming available each year. Only a handful of countries have this depth of expertise. And at home, Oxford Economics and the Nuclear Industry Association believe each off those people adds £96,600 in gross value to the economy per year. 

Prodigious innovation and optimisation in offshore wind technology have seen it scale up, cut costs and grow to deliver 17% of our electricity – and up to 30% on a good day. Solar has grown too and nuclear has stayed solid as a rock at around 20%. Along with gas they are seeing off coal and the UK is making progress towards a truly clean energy system. It’s fair to say the UK stands out as a developed country that is getting it right.

We have only to look California, which is comparable in energy consumption to the UK, to see the implications of getting it wrong. Failure to ensure fire safety around transmission lines has led to huge blackouts, leaving people with less capability to cope with fires which happened anyway. A small temperature rise there has increased the area susceptible to fire by a factor of eight.

Global average temperatures have already risen by 1℃ from pre-industrial levels and show no signs of stopping. We are heading full speed into far bigger problems regarding our wellbeing than we've ever seen before. As an always-on supply of energy that enables our lives and our work, enhances our independence, and avoids worsening our environmental problems, nuclear stands to play a huge role underpinning whatever social and economic changes we devise – or are forced on us – in the coming century.