Sunday, 30 November 2014

New study highlights enthusiasm of British farmers for renewable energy

A new study published by 'Forum For the Future' highlights the enthusiasm for investing and deploying renewable energy by farmers on their farms. This comes out at the same time that the Government is trying to stop farmers installing solar pv on their farms in an effort to throw a sop to UKIP.

'Forum For the Future', in collaboration with Nottingham Trent University, blow away the alleged conservatism of British farmers by indicating how large quantities of British electricity supply (much larger than that provided by Hinkley C) could be installed by 2020 - And integrated with existing levels of food production and increased biodiversity protection.

Yet Environment Secretary Liz Truss is keen to stifle such moves. She has orchestrated the removal of farm subsidies from land that is used for solar pv. Meanwhile the Department of Energy and Climate Change has said that solar farms must compete with large scale. windfarms for the same limited pot of money for long term contracts.

The report can be be seen at:

As Jonathon Porritt (the founder of Forum for the Future) says on his blog:

'The National Farmers Union loves it – and you can’t say that very often! It’s true, of course, that wind has fallen out of favour with your coalition partners, who are competing furiously with UKIP to see who can more effectively trash our wind industry while simultaneously hammering the rural economy.
Despite the media and political spin, the majority of Brits like wind power. But solar power is really very popular. Not just on roofs (farmhouses and farm buildings have lots of roofs pointing in the right direction, or so I’m told!), but mounted on the ground.' 
The blog entry from which this quote is drawn can be seen at:

Friday, 28 November 2014

Government implies it may not sign Hinkley C deal before General Election

The Government has refused to confirm that it it will sign a contract with EDF allowing Hinkley C to be built before April 2015, which is only a few weeks before the General Election. This can be seen in the text below which contains an answer to a Parliamentary Question tabled by Caroline Lucas. This evasive response underlines the shaky status of the Hinkley C nuclear project. See the text below:

The Department for Energy and Climate Change has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (215723):
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, whether he plans to sign a contract with EDF for Hinkley C nuclear power station before April 2015; and if he will make a statement. (215723)
Tabled on: 24 November 2014
Matthew Hancock:
The Government is continuing to negotiate with EDF on both the Contract for Difference and the UK Guarantee for Hinkley Point C, and plans to sign a contract in due course.

The answer was submitted on 28 Nov 2014 at 13:36.

The project was supposed to be backed by investments from AREVA and also Chinese state owned nuclear companies, but investment from both of these sources (around half of the total equity capital) is now under question. AREVA, the state-owned French nuclear constructor and parent of the failing EPR reactor design,  is going bust and cannot afford the Hinkley C investment on its current balance sheet. The Chinese nuclear companies apparently want a greater share of the work on the project than EDF is willing to give. This underlines the core of the surviving French interest in the project - the interest of powerful nationalised French corporations to preserve their jobs in a declining industry. They have the power of the state at their disposal, ranged against the political inclinations of the Hollande Presidency to try to stop the nuclear dinosaur that controls the French state from eating up so much of its resources.

Now EDF are courting the Saudis and the Qataris for equity investment. It seems very doubtful, given the catastrophic nature of the EPR building programme so far in France and Finland, that these oil states would consider investing in Hinkley C as an attractive money-making venture. France does have good relations with these countries through arms sales that it makes to them. But, logically, it may be the case that such investments may only be procured if the French (or/and British state) agrees some formula to 'guarantee' the investments made by Qatar/Saudi Arabia.

The UK has already agreed to guarantee two thirds of the notional cost of the project so that EDF can take out a bank loan, (note the word 'notional' as if many people still believe this window dressing). As discussed in other posts, the UK will doubtless be horribly burned for a lot more money than has even been committed now if, as seems all but certain, the project goes wrong. But some guarantee from the French state will also be needed. Has Hollande been bludgeoned into agreeing this? Will the Treasury be suckered into also effectively guaranteeing  part or all of the cost overruns in the likely future debacle? The resources of the British and French states are needed to preserve the French nuclear dinosaur!

Thursday, 20 November 2014

The real secret letter from the Treasury about disastrous Hinkley C is revealed

Hot on the heels of news of further escalations of delays (and thus)  costs for EPRs being built in Finland and France there is news that the Treasury is conducting a 'secret' review of the EPR project that is scheduled to be built at Hinkley C.


This is more pantomime nonsense broadly similar to all the facile Parliamentary deliberations about whether the £92.50 per MWh price to be paid over 35 years with a £10 billion Treasury loan guarantee is 'value for money'.....not to mention the EU Commission's irrelevant statements about 'protecting' UK consumers by saying that the developers should return money if the project ends up costing less than projected.

Costing less than projected! Costing no more than £92.50 per MWh over 35 years! And this £10 billion Treasury loan guarantee being just a notional sum that the UK consumers will not have to pay out!

All nonsense! It is isn't even self-deluding any more. The Treasury will now know full well that the only way the project will be built is if the Government gives full underwriting of all and effectively any costs involved in the project. Whether or not they admit or agree formally to that happening now is irrelevant, it is what will end up happening to get the plant finally built. The electricity consumer will be made to pay out far beyond the nominal prices so far agreed (see previous posts on this). The nominal price tag (£92.50 per MWh etc) mentioned in the Government's press releases is a fig leaf to hide the fact that the real price, costed on a commercial basis will be much, much, higher. As I have said in the past, in reality the project would be priced at being higher than that of an offshore wind project if it was costed using comparable criteria.

The Treasury, who actually have some financial analysts who have at least a passing grasp of energy economics and the realities of nuclear power economics, know full well that the Hinkley C scheme is a slow moving car crash.The latest leaked piece of news that there is a 'secret' review (if it was secret, why is it being announced to the press?) is merely another piece of apologia, a part of a cover story that will be reserved for roll-out in front of an inquiry some years later into what went wrong with the Hinkley C project. No doubt this inquiry will declare that there was good will on all sides, just a few well meaning mistakes made, and that the next nuclear project will work out as cheap as chips!

What is the 'real' secret letter likely to be from the Treasury:

'Dear Ed,

Given the worsening prospects for the Hinkley C prospect, including the virtual bankruptcy of constructors AREVA, the political meltdown surrounding EDF and the near certainty that the Hinkley C project will turn out to be much more expensive that even the price we have agreed, we do feel it is necessary somehow to signal that we have not been totally stupid in not noticing the sheer insanity of this project. For our part we want to emphasise that we are only going along with this project because of pressure from Number 10 to satisfy political pressure that 'nuclear power must be built', We also understand that you would prefer not to have to take responsibility for this fiasco, but you also know that your job depends on keeping up appearances about the project. So, we can circulate a story that we are conducting a 'secret' review into the project. This will demonstrate our concern, but allow some cover for us when the inquiry is organised in a few years time over how the project turned out to be so big a turkey without anybody in government appearing to notice.

We can all blame pressure from the PM's office to ensure that the deal was made for Hinkley C when that happens. Hinkley C construction is likely to begin to have problems before DC leaves office in 2019 or whatever, but the inquiry about the failures will take longer to appoint, and even longer to report, so he will be safely retired by the time blame is apportioned for the catastrophe. He can blame the French anyway.

It is still a shame, though, that it is the British electricity consumer who will have to pay out the countless billions of pounds of costs for overruns until probably at least the 2060s to get the power stations completed. But at least the money will not be available to spend on all of those awfully ugly wind and solar farms that your erstwhile green friends are so keen on !

Best Wishes,