The saga of Hinkley Point C: Europe 's key nuclear decision
21 August 2014
Will EDF with Chinese backing build a new third-generation nuclear power plant in the U.K., and if so under what conditions? The answer to this question will be vital to the future of the European energy sector. And a great deal will depend on the European Commission, which is expected to decide any moment whether the U.K. 's agreement with EDF will be allowed under EU State Aid rules. In the World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2014, an annual independent assessment of the global nuclear industry, Steve Thomas, Mycle Schneider and Antony Patrick Froggatt tell the remarkable saga of Hinkley Point C as it has developed until today.
The U.K. government promised from the start that nuclear power would be competitive with gas-fired generation and, as a result, any new nuclear orders would receive no public subsidies and, implicitly, would compete in the competitive British wholesale electricity market on equal terms with other generators.
What was particularly eye-catching about the initial publicity in surrounding the attempt to re-launch nuclear ordering in the U.K. was the very optimistic forecasts of the commercial and economic viability of new nuclear orders. Following the failure to privatize the British nuclear power plants and the lack of nuclear orders for electricity markets that had been opened to competition, the conventional wisdom was that, even if the price of power from nuclear plants were expected to be competitive with the cheapest options, nuclear would not be chosen because financiers would not be prepared to bear the economic risks associated with building nuclear.
By 2006, the original cost claims for a “nuclear renaissance”, first talked about from 1998 onwards, for example that nuclear could be built for less than US$1000/kW, a price expected to make nuclear competitive with natural gas generation, had already been proved unrealistic. The claim that, in Britain , nuclear plants would be ordered on the basis that they would be able to compete in the market with the cheapest alternatives and would be offered no public subsidies was therefore remarkable. All that would be required were a few “enabling” measures such as making suitable sites available, carrying out a Generic Design Appraisal (GDA) process and putting a cap on the cost of radioactive waste disposal. [See right]
Stop Hinkley calls on EDF Energy to give up on obsolete Hinkley Point C
28 Aug 2014
The Stop Hinkley Campaign has called on EDF Energy to give up its nuclear ambitions following a report from giant multinational investment bank, UBS, which declares that it is “ time to join the [solar] revolution”.
UBS says large centralised power stations, like the proposed £16 billion Hinkley Point C nuclear power station could be obsolete with 10 to 20 years. Large power stations will soon become extinct because they are too big and inflexible, and are “not relevant” for future electricity generation, according to the bank.
And yet, if the European Commission gives the deal between the UK Government and EDF Energy the go-ahead consumers could be paying for these redundant reactors until around 2060.
Instead UBS says solar energy costs have fallen rapidly and the technology is now on the verge of being competitive without subsidies. Battery costs are declining fast and electric vehicles will soon cost the same as conventional cars. The Bank expects home solar systems, small-scale home battery technology and an electric car to be a sensible investment for consumers in much of Europe by 2020.
The UBS report follows similar analysis by other large financial institutions and energy experts who expect new solar and renewable technologies to drive rapid change in large scale utility companies.
Stop Hinkley spokesperson Roy Pumfrey said: “EDF Energy needs to give up now before it wastes any more of the £16 billion cost of building Hinkley Point C. At the rapid rate of change in small-scale renewable energy technologies the nuclear reactors will be obsolete before they are built or very soon after, but consumers will be forced to keep paying for these redundant white elephants.”