Are we witnessing an about-turn in energy thinking in the UK? The Labour government, worried by climate change and energy security, is in the middle of a review on energy that will be published in the summer. All the pundits believe though that the government will commit itself to a new generation of nuclear power plants, based on the existing centralised idea of supplying electricity.

So Labour, who have traditionally been more sceptical of nuclear, look set to go down that road. The Conservatives meanwhile, who are historical supporters of nuclear power, are now advocating a complete about-turn in their thinking by arguing for a decentralised energy system in the UK. This would include solar power, small gas-powered generators, heat-pumps, and small turbines.

Ironically, the Conservatives’ new shift in policy was backed by a new report from Greenpeace UK that compared centralised power generation using nuclear power, and a decentralised system, in which energy was predominantly produced using renewables and combined heat and power.

The report’s findings suggests that a “decentralised system would provide the UK with enormous benefits over the nuclear option”, according to Greenpeace, as “any centralised model is extremely inefficient; over 60% of the energy going into a power station (whether fuelled by oil, gas, coal or nuclear) is wasted as heat, while another 3.5% is lost as the electricity travels round the national grid. So all in all, over two-thirds of all energy going into a power station is wasted”.

In contrast a decentralised solution is cleaner, cheaper and more secure, argues Greenpeace. Read their report here.

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