In January this year, Dr Oliver Mahony (Atlantic Assets) contested reassurances that UK taxpayers’ money will not be at risk in the Hinkley nuclear power project, pointing out that the government has pledged a £2bn guarantee on financing the investment, which has the prospect of rising over time. While this support has been achieved “off balance sheet” to avoid adding to the ever-growing national debt, the liability for the taxpayer is much the same.
In March a post on this site quoted former Northern Rock chairman and climate change denier Matt Ridley, who advocates replacing EDF with Japanese or Chinese builders. He proposed ‘killing off’ the Hinkley Point C plan, citing EDF’s precarious financial state and pointing to the problems at two other sites in Finland and France. At £18 billion, or more like £24 billion including finance costs, he said, Hinkley Point C would be the most expensive power station ever built.
“An unprecedented waste of public money”
Due to information overload a valuable contribution by Green MEP Molly Scott Cato, saved in September, was overlooked. She points out that advice from scientific, economic, environmental and security is clear: Hinkley is economically illiterate, technically flawed, environmentally risky and a threat to our national security, adding, “in post-Brexit Britain the government turns its back on experts in the name of political expediency”. Yet despite deafening protestations, the ‘review’ concludes that the deal should go ahead. She continues:
“As well as guaranteeing EDF the outrageously high strike rate of £92.50 per megawatt hour — twice the current wholesale price for electricity — nuclear power enjoys fantastic subsidies. It pays nothing for its liability, waste management or decommissioning . . . Factor in these costs and it begins to look hugely uncompetitive compared to renewable sources, particularly wind and solar where costs are in sharp decline.
Dr Scott Cato suggests that “Having snubbed our European partners in an imperfect referendum, the government clearly believes it cannot afford to offend the Chinese” who are to fund one third of the EDF-led Hinkley project, “Ultimately, Hinkley demonstrates that the Conservative government is not taking back control but giving it away . . . In a desperate attempt to demonstrate that Brexit Britain is open for business, the government is engaged in a national kowtow exercise, handing over our energy infrastructure to a company controlled by the Chinese Communist Party together with a corporation 85% owned by the French state”.
As EDF has received a bailout from the French government equivalent to a €7bn subsidy, Greens in the European Parliament believe that such a bailout amounts to illegal state aid under EU rules and have taken up the case with the competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager.
There are also two outstanding legal challenges through the European Court of Justice (above), one by the Austrian and Luxembourg governments over state subsidies, and one by a consortium of renewable energy companies claiming the subsidy package could give ‘hazardous nuclear technology’ a competitive advantage.
In March Charles Macdowell commented on the Ridley article: “Matt Ridley is nearly right. There are indeed better, smaller options than EDF’s nuclear white elephants. They can go on the roof of his notional poor pensioner’s draughty cottage, if only George Osborne can be persuaded to bring back the incentives for solar energy”.
Osney Lock Hydro is a community owned 49kW Hydroelectric generation project in Oxford situated on the river Thames.
Molly Scott Cato adds: “What is needed is a proper ‘comprehensive review’ of our energy policy; one which aims to take power away from corporations and governments and hand it back to people in the form of community owned renewables”.