There is a growing consensus that nuclear is integral to the UK’s 21st century energy mix. Labour’s initial charge has belatedly been backed by the Conservatives and more recently, following a volte-face, by the Liberal Democrats. In Wales only Plaid Cymru remains muddled in its views being neither for nor against new nuclear.
I have always supported nuclear generation. Since being elected to Parliament in 2001 I have campaigned for and lobbied Government’s of all colours to put their faith in nuclear. This campaign has begun to bear fruit in my constituency of Ynys Môn where Horizon/Hitachi has started the development of Wylfa Newydd.
The new plant will create new jobs both at the site and downstream, bring high-skilled workers into the local economy and give our young people a reason to work hard and stay on the island reversing the steady decline in population we have experienced in recent years due to the economic downturn.
Ed Miliband, Carwyn Jones, Caroline Flint and the rest of the Labour team recognise nuclear’s potential. They have voiced their support for new build projects and it was indeed Ed Miliband who got the ball rolling on new nuclear during his time as the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change during the last Labour Government.
He recognised that nuclear was integral to Britain’s future energy security. Alongside clean coal and gas, nuclear will provide the base load for our generation needs. With a steady, consistent base we can integrate renewable sources into our energy mix. It is for this reason that I have long argued that there is nothing contradictory in being pro-renewable, pro-nuclear and pro-energy efficiency.
I have seen a number of projects involving wind, tidal, biomass and marine current renewable technologies begin to come to fruition as part of the Anglesey Energy Island concept. It is not about having one or the other, as Plaid Cymru’s 100 percent renewable fallacy seems to suggest, it is about having the right mix of technology so that Wales and the whole United Kingdom can benefit.
This includes exploring our shale gas reserves. I am aware of the contentious nature of shale extraction but I am also aware of the community benefits that such endeavours can bring having seen firsthand the developments in America and, similarly, extraction methods in Canada. Evidently, our system works differently to those across the Atlantic, however, the principle should remain.
We should always ask, first and foremost, what benefits extraction would bring to a community. In this regard, I believe the community to be the entirety of the United Kingdom and that we should use the potential revenues generated by shale to update our insufficient infrastructure including connecting those customers who are currently paying over the odds for off-grid gas onto the gas mains. We should also look to our friends in Norway and their example of putting oil revenues into a development kitty for future generations to enjoy.
At next year’s General Election the cost of living, jobs, growth and opportunity for the future will be at the forefront of people’s mind as they head to the polls. The UK’s energy sector has an important part to play in all of these aspects. New nuclear, together with renewable technologies, clean gas and coal and shale, has the potential to be a game changer in the way we think about our energy supply.
It was Labour that begun the hard work of renewing our energy infrastructure for the 21st century. It will be Labour who finishes the job.
Albert Owen is the Member of Parliament for Ynys Môn. He has represented the constituency since 2001 and sits on the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee. @AlbertOwenMP