Opponents of nuclear power often claim that supporting nuclear will inevitably mean that renewables will suffer. For example, UK Liberal Democrat energy spokesman, Simon Hughes, claimed in parliament last week that “the love-in between Labour, the Conservatives and the nuclear industry” will mean that UK renewables will suffer.
However, the evidence from France shows this need not be the case. 78% of French electricity is nuclear and, before 2002, it had virtually no installed wind capacity. But over the last seven years, wind power in France has grown rapidly. Last year, it installed 950Mw of additional wind capacity, which accounted for 60% of new capacity. This was more (though only slightly) than was installed in the UK and means that France has 3.4Gw of installed wind capacity, compared to 3.3Gw in the UK. The five year average annual growth of wind power in France from 2003 to 2008 was 69%. In the UK, where the government had (for most of these five years) an anti-nuclear stance, it was 38%. (See France – climate and energy statistics for more information on France.)
Sadly and illogically, the main French utility EDF, which now owns most of the British nuclear industry, is saying that the UK government should scale back its wind targets and ambitions and increase its nuclear ones. The UK government should reject this demand, not because EDF is a mainly-nuclear company or because (as UK tabloid newspapers are inevitably saying) it is French, but because it is wrong.