Nuclear helps tackle high energy prices, Foratom says

15 October 2021

A European Commission (EC) communication that includes a "toolbox" that the EU and its Member States can use to address the immediate impact of high energy prices fails to mention nuclear energy's contribution, Foratom said. By including nuclear, the EU would have a unique opportunity of limiting its dependence on carbon intensive natural gas imports, thereby reducing its exposure to wholesale price fluctuations and its carbon footprint, the European nuclear trade body added.

(Image: Pixabay)

On 13 October, the EC adopted a Communication aimed at tackling the exceptional rise in global energy prices, which is projected to last through the winter. The communication includes a toolbox that can be used to address the current price increases and further strengthen resilience against future shocks.

"The current price spike requires a rapid and coordinated response. The existing legal framework enables the EU and its Member States to take action to address the immediate impacts on consumers and businesses," the EC noted. "Priority should be given to targeted measures that can rapidly mitigate the impact of price rises for vulnerable consumers and small businesses. These measures should be easily adjustable in the Spring, when the situation is expected to stabilise. Our long-term transition and investments in cleaner energy sources should not be disrupted."

Short-term national measures include emergency income support to households, state aid for companies and targeted tax reductions. The Commission said it will also support investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency; examine possible measures on energy storage and purchasing of gas reserves; and assess the current electricity market design.

It added, "The clean energy transition is the best insurance against price shocks in the future, and needs to be accelerated."

"The Commission is helping Member States to take immediate measures to reduce the impact on households and businesses this winter," said Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson. "At the same time, we identify other medium-term measures to ensure that our energy system is more resilient and more flexible to withstand any future volatility throughout the transition."

Simson presented the communication and toolbox to Members of the European Parliament yesterday and will present it to energy ministers on 26 October. European leaders are then due to discuss energy prices at the upcoming European Council on 21-22 October.

Nuclear's contribution

Foratom said the EC communication failed to "pay closer attention to the role which low-carbon and dispatchable nuclear can play in mitigating the current energy crisis."

The organisation's Director General Yves Desbazeille said: "As highlighted in the communication, the current price increases are being driven by higher natural gas prices on the global market. Therefore, as the EU moves to increase its share of variable renewables, it is essential that EU policy supports other low-carbon European sources to ensure reduced dependency on imports."

Foratom also noted the communication highlights the effects which lower availability of renewables has had on the market, leading to supply constraints. "Because nuclear can provide both baseload and dispatchable electricity, it acts as a perfect counterbalance at times when renewables are unavailable," it said. "As noted in the communication, nuclear currently accounts for around 25% of the electricity mix in the EU."

"It would be a mistake to treat this as a short-term issue. It is clear that demand for electricity is expected to increase dramatically in the push to decarbonise Europe's economy," Desbazeille added. "Therefore, the EU needs to already be putting solutions in place today to ensure that it is able to generate enough low-carbon electricity in Europe to meet growing demand. This means supporting the development of nuclear energy."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News