Nuclear power and wind will play key role in energy security, Lord Deben says

Lord Deben has spoken about the role nuclear power and wind farms will play in the future of the UK's energy security.

Lord Deben has spoken about the role nuclear power and wind farms will play in the future of the UK's energy security. - Credit: SU ANDERSON/PA

A Tory grandee and climate change expert says nuclear power and wind farms will play a key role in the UK's energy security as war rages in Ukraine.

Lord Deben is a former Suffolk MP and was the UK's longest-serving environment secretary, as well as being the current chairman of the Climate Change Committee. 

In his current role, which he has held since 2012, he helps to set government emissions targets and tells the government when it's not on course to hit the targets. 

He said the war in Ukraine had "brought us to our senses" and that "it was very foolish to have allowed ourselves to be so dependent upon other regimes" for our food and energy.

"In the east of England, I think these two are really very close together," he said.

"It's the same fiction that has ended up with us not thinking about food security and not thinking about energy security.

"It is from fossil fuels that we get the fertilisers which are the basis for much of modern agriculture, so we have to think about energy and food at the same time.

Most Read

"It's been ridiculous that governments have thought that food security didn't matter. What matters is that we can do as much feeding of ourselves as possible."

This, he said, meant the government would have to revamp its agricultural policy more towards food production than the current environmental land management schemes.

On energy security, Lord Deben similarly believes the war in Ukraine is a wake-up call.

"The effect of the war in Ukraine is really just to remind us that the cheapest way to produce electricity is from our own resources: our own wind and our own sun," he said. 

"We should be moving as fast as we possibly can in that direction – because it's the cheapest thing to do and it makes us independent. People can't take our sun or our wind away from us."

To do this, he said both on-shore and off-shore wind farms would play an important role.

But, he believes the countryside should not be sacrificed to make way for this.

He said: "Our electricity systems have got to be brought up to date, which means that, for example, we should not allow or we should not insist upon off-shore wind coming onshore in separate ways."

Lord Deben cited the proposed 30-acre substation at Friston as an example of what should not be done.

Lord Deben says a ring main should be used to connect off-shore wind farms to land.

Lord Deben says a ring main should be used to connect off-shore wind farms to land. - Credit: PA

"What we need is a ring main, which goes around the coast and comes in at the right place, probably Bradwell.

"All this offshore wind should link into that. We shouldn't be despoiling the countryside by having stations onshore."

Also key to energy security is nuclear power.

"The question we have to ask ourselves is: Where do you put the nuclear power?" he said. 

"It seems to me that you have to take into account very strongly your levelling up programme.

"There's no doubt that on the isle of Anglesey, the local population wants a new nuclear power station.

"And no doubt that a new nuclear power station in Cumbria would be a very good alternative to the ridiculous idea of digging a new coal mine."

But what does he think about the plans for Sizewell C?

How Sizewell C with its twin reactors could look alongside plants A and B on Suffolk's coast

How Sizewell C with its twin reactors could look alongside plants A and B on Suffolk's coast. - Credit: EDF Energy

"Because of my role as chairman of the Climate Change Committee, I'm not going to make any specific comments about Sizewell.

"But all I will say is that it seems to me that the levelling up agenda and the climate change agenda needs to be part of the same thing. You need a fair transition from where we are to where we have to get.

"We need more nuclear power, there's no doubt about that. We can't meet our requirements for net-zero without more nuclear power.

"It almost certainly needs at least one more big power station like the one we're building in Somerset.

"As far as Sizewell is concerned, that is a decision for the government. 

"But what I can say is that all of these decisions have got to be made in the context of the national requirements.

"And they've got to be done in a way which minimises the effect on the local environment and maximises the advantage that you have economically to difficult and deprived areas."