Long in making, the new Czech energy strategy has finally been approved. It puts the emphasis on more nuclear plants eventually generating half the country’s electricity. But while the goals have been set, how to get there is still in some respects up in the air.
After a lot of deliberations, the Czech government finally adopted its long term energy strategy on Monday. The previous plan dated from 2004 and was already looking largely irrelevant with the European Commission and Czech industry in the margins pushing for the update.
The framework has been the subject of much debate, many amendments, and a fair deal of controversy. Basically the strategy plots where the country is now and where it should be in around 25 years’ time with the full force of the state put into getting from A to B in the most efficient way possible.
The so-called energy mix, what power sources should fuel the country for the decades to come, is one of the big issues addressed in the strategy. And there is no big surprise that nuclear power came out as the favorite for the future. In fact, nuclear power is tipped in the strategy to account for 46-58 percent of the electricity generated in the country by 2040 compared with around a third of electricity from nuclear reactors now.
Brown coal is seen losing its place as the current main fuel for generating electricity, its role is seen slipping to 11-21 percent. Renewables could account for up to a quarter of power produced, and natural gas between 5 and 15 percent.
The main arguments rolled out by Minister of Industry and Trade Jan Mládek to justify his long term power plotting is that the Czech Republic has a lot of nuclear know-how that should be safeguarded. And although the fuel rods for power plants are produced by Russian company TVEL, half of the uranium comes from local mines, and the fuel can be stockpiled and the sources diversified in the future.
Natural gas is expensive and mostly imported, brown coal is gradually being depleted and has some serious pollution and climate change implications, and while the role of renewables can increase, the Czech Republic does not have the sun, wind, hydro resources, or biomass to make it main contender in the mix.
But as much as the new strategy seeks to plot the Czech Republic’s energy future and give some security, a few awkward questions were left behind on Monday. Firstly, there is the big question of who will build and pay for the new nuclear reactors that will be needed by 2040 if the strategy target for nuclear is to be attained.
And, here both finance minister Andrej Babiš and prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka appeared to be reading from the same page and the words were not the ones that Mládek would have chosen. Both said they are opposed to the state giving guarantees for the price of electricity generated from new nuclear reactors. That was the same stance that forced state power company ČEZ to ditch its Temelín expansion tender. Don’t blink on this one, the issue should be returning to the government in two weeks’ time
And the issue of whether environmental limits on mining brown coal should stay or go, that has also been kicked into the long grass but makes a return in August after a study has been completed.