Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Pressure grows for blank cheque for nuclear power

Now that it is plain that nuclear power has failed miserably to compete with renewable energy even on the somewhat skewed playing field represented by the (proposed) Hinkley C deal, nuclear supporters are trying to engineer a 'blank cheque' to be given to  nuclear developers. That would be the outcome of the call, made in a report issued by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR).

The IPPR favour developing nuclear power as a publicly owned development, on the same basis as projects like HS2. There would be a 'cost plus' contract given to the nuclear power developers, who could, and no doubt would, be able to waste taxpayers money on a grand scale without any risk to their own profit margins. IPPR have finally cottoned on to the fact that nuclear power stations never get built on a competitive privately owned risk basis.

The fact that that nuclear power is so uncompetitive that it needs this sort of treatment should lead us to the conclusion that it is much better to spend the money on something else, renewable energy for example, of which there is no shortage. But no, the calls of the British engineering establishment must be met, no matter how mid-20th century they may be!

Curiously the IPPR report exaggerates the prices paid to onshore and offshore wind. The latest 'contracts for difference' issues to these technologies are at £80 per MWh and £120 per MWh, yet the IPPR puts them as being more expensive (see page 29). Maybe the IPPR should get its reports peer reviewed more carefully.

More seriously the IPPR is close to the Labour Party. It would be rather unfortunate if the Labour Party supported the IPPR's approach and came out as being, in effect, more pro-nuclear than the Conservatives if it adopted a 'blank cheque' approach. Jonathan Reynolds, Labour's energy spokesperson has indeed backed the report with a twitter message. Electricity Market Reform was dreamt up to fund new nuclear. That failed. Now were going to have the spectacle, sometime in the future (if Labour gets in next time) of policy once again being distorted to give a failing dinosaur technology supposed priority over renewable energy.

By the way, they'll need a new EU state aid application for this.

The IPPR's report is couched in terms of shifting the costs of spending on non-fossil energy from electricity bills to public spending bills. Renewable energy will be hopelessly constrained by this disaster as their budgets are squeezed.

Meanwhile the Government may take little notice of this call, for the moment at least. But, alas, the Government has a different set of policy horrors. It is currently focussed on cutting opportunities for onshore wind power. I understand that an announcement bringing forward the cut-off date for new onshore wind schemes under the Renewables Obligation from 2017 to 2016 will come soon.

See the IPPR offering at:

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