Thursday, 5 December 2013

Why doesn't Labour criticise nuclear funding deals?

Tom Greatrex, Labour's energy spokesperson, has criticised me and my other academic colleagues for arguing that it is now plausible to talk about Scotland having independent control of electricity policy. See http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/home-news/energy-experts-in-u-turn-on-union.22875552

But as I have told him, in an email message, a big part of the credibility behind a sustained new nuclear build-up (and hence the argument for Scottish electricity independence) is precisely because Labour appears to be giving full backing to continued efforts to roll out nuclear power stations. In its most recent policy document, for example, 'Powering Britain: One Nation Labour's Plans to Reset the Energy Market', Labour talks about continuing the system of contracts for difference for nuclear power. There is no criticism of the cost of the Hinkley C deal, or indication that Labour departs from the Government's desire to continue to give, to future nuclear power plant proposals, loan guarantees, ultra long (35 year) contracts as well as premium prices much the same level as given to Hinkley C (£92.50 per MWh).

I wrote to Tom Greatrex saying the following:

Dear Tom,

I can understand your dismay at seeing a group of academics taking a new line which does not fit in so well with the 'Better Together' campaign. I have not taken this step lightly. A key reason for this (among others), but perhaps the biggest of all, is the policy of giving large premium prices to nuclear power in the shape of Hinkley C and the Government's projections to build three twin reactors by 2030. Now if Labour had cast doubt on this plan and said it would not give anything like the strike price and loan guarantees and contract length to this or other nuclear projects this this Government are doing, then obviously there would be less argument in support of the contention that in the medium and long term very great costs would be incurred by the British consumers - and Scottish consumers of course. There would be more to spend on renewables instead or energy efficiency for the same diversion of consumer and taxpayer resources.

However, Labour appears to be conspicuous in its desire to maintain a consensus position over the projected level of nuclear funding. If it was not then you would be able to reduce the strength of the argument that we present.

The other point I would make is that having Scottish control over clean energy incentives is easily absorbed in what has been called a 'devo-plus' agenda as well as full independence. 

Best Wishes,



David Toke 

Also see an article of mine on the subject of Scotland and electricity independence in 'The Conversation' at

http://theconversation.com/scotland-benefits-by-paying-for-its-energy-not-uks-mistakes-21200


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