Hinkley C’s power output could be achieved for £30 billion less. Just change the UK’s lightbulbs

Content Coms’ energy expert Giles Crosse makes the case for efficiency to plug the energy supply gap.

“If all street lights were switched to LED bulbs, we could take half a GW of demand off the grid with ease,” writes The Guardian.

“If all homes did the same, we’d save 2.7GW of power at peak use; that’s nearly the equivalent of Hinkley by just changing the lightbulbs.”

It’s an astonishing revelation, not only of the power of energy-efficiency, but of the excruciating cost of Hinkley C.

Can Teresa May truly justify signing Hinkley off?

Of course, one can’t switch every UK lightbulb overnight. What’s important to understand about The Guardian analysis are the deeper themes of timing, behaviour change and risk.


Every UK lightbulb cannot be retrofit instantly with an efficient solution. But, Hinkley too will take many years to build. In fact, no one knows how long, because similar reactors are running vastly behind schedule.

Anyone trying to pretend they know how quickly, or for that matter if Hinkley can be made to work is lying. Which leads neatly into issues on timing and behaviour change.

Behaviour change

Building Hinkley will be hard. But getting people to green up with a gentle push is not nearly as hard as you might think.

In the months following the UK’s 5p plastic bag charge, usage of the bags fell by almost 80%. When you think about it, this is astonishing.

It’s virtually impossible to find anything you can buy in a shop for 5p. But slap a 5p hike on a bag, publicise it, and people drop them like hot potatoes. Such is the conceptual power of green taxation, even though the cost is irrelevant.

The change represents a vast shift; 7.6 billion single use bags were used in the year before the ban. So the law has, with no major issues, taken 6 billion of those out of circulation in the blink of an eye. And no one has complained.

The evidence suggests; could similar measures imposed on conventional light bulbs, or on councils for street lights, drive a similar shift in efficiency? Could the effort to change every UK lightbulb, and save the energy Hinkley would produce, actually be achieved in about a year too?


The carrier bag tax success proves environmental taxation isn’t risky for politicians to create. But Hinkley is risky; the nuclear disaster in Fukishima has now polluted 1/3 of the entire planet.

And, there are published concerns about ‘very serious anomalies’ regarding Hinkley’s safety already, before it is even built, before any harm can take place.

Is any of this worth the risk, when a 5p surcharge on conventional lightbulbs could save the power Hinkley would generate?

The latest Guardian analysis also says that solar and wind could supply Hinkley’s contribution to UK power more cheaply.

“The [energy] department’s forecasts for the levelised cost of electricity of wind and solar in 2025 have decreased since 2010. The cost forecast for gas has not changed, while for nuclear it has increased,” the NAO said.

Surely a rethink must now be inevitable?

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