Sunday, 23 February 2014

Does Caroline Flint need lessons in arithmetic over nuclear and renewable costs?

In a remarkable piece of double-think Caroline Flint, Labour's energy spokesperson, has declared that nuclear power in the shape of Hinkley C is 'cheaper than other forms of renewable energy'. This assertion flies in the face of the numbers. She rules out the possibility of a Labour Government renegotiating the Hinkley C contract.


For the moment, let us leave a critique of the extremely tendentious re-designation of nuclear power as a 'renewable' source of energy for another time. Let us look at the numbers. The simple mathematics of government incentives for nuclear and other renewables demonstrates that Caroline Flint's logic flies in the face of reality.

Hinkley C has a contract for 35 years, with loan guarantees for the bulk of the investment, at a strike price of £92.50. This price will be increased in line with the the CPI measure of inflation so that by the time Hinkley C starts generating (they say in 2023) the strike price will be well over £100 per MWh. Meanwhile onshore wind is actually being given a lower strike price than this from 2016 (£90 per MWh) with only a 15 year year contract and no loan guarantees. If Hinkley C didn't receive the loan guarantees, the required strike price for nuclear would be guargantuan, and if wind power got the loan guarantees and a longer contract during which the strike price is payable for units of electricity generated then the amount of money required for the wind power would be a lot less than £90 per MWh. And in reality the cost of offshore wind would be competitive with nuclear as well if these other support measures are taken into account.

Then there is solar power, which will receive £100 per MWh from 2018, and this will be less than Hinkley C, especially when the longer contract and loan guarantee support for Hinkley C (which solar doesn't get) are taken into account. Indeed the Solar Trade Association asked for £91 per MWh from 2018 for large solar arrays on account of continued falling prices. Continued falling prices, note, not continued upward prices as in the case of nuclear power!

See See


  1. You're right of course, but do you have a theory as to why Flint said this?

    1. Well, I'm an academic, so I have got to have a theory! (joke)