The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has urged the UK government to back renewables over nuclear to form the backbone of a low-cost, low-carbon energy system.

In its inaugural National Infrastructure Assessment, the NIC proposed Westminster should agree support for only one more nuclear plant beyond Hinkley Point C before 2025.

The quango said moving to an electricity system mainly powered by renewables could be the “safest bet” in the long term and become the lowest cost outcome for consumers.

“If we act now we have a golden opportunity to make our country greener, and protect the money in the pockets of consumers long into the future – something few of us expected to be able to do,” said NIC chairman Sir John Armitt.

In a series of recommendations, the NIC said the UK should offer onshore wind and solar a route to market in Contracts for Difference (CfD) price support auctions.

The NIC recommends BEIS moves offshore wind to the so-called Pot 1 for mature renewables after the Spring 2019 CfD round to compete head-on with onshore wind and solar.

Established technologies should “be allowed to compete to deliver the overwhelming majority of the extra renewable electricity needed as overall demand increases, with measures to move them to the front of the queue for government support,” it added.

The NIC also said the UK should also publish indicative auction dates and budgets for the next decade by 2020.

Trade body RenewableUK said the report showed it is time for the government to back onshore wind.

R-UK executive director Emma Pinchbeck said: “Cheap renewables offer the best deal for consumers. Government has a great opportunity to give bill payers a break by putting renewable energy at the heart of a modern smart energy system. Instead of that it’s inexplicably blocking new onshore wind projects. 

“Ministers should be listening to what people actually think and the Government’s own polling shows that 76% of people support onshore wind.”

Image: Little Cheyne Court onshore wind farm (Innogy)