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Nuclear bills

Greenpeace: the Hinkley deal makes ‘no economic sense’
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Greenpeace has accused the government of backing ‘a nag running backwards’ following the agreement struck by French-owned EDF and China’s CGN last week to build a fleet of new nuclear reactors at Hinkley and other two locations in the UK.

The £18bn project, which will see the construction of the UK’s first new nuclear power station in a generation, was announced in the same week that a consultation closed on ministers’ plans to cut incentives for household solar by nearly 90%.

Renewables make energy cheaper – new study finds renewables are bringing down the wholesale cost of energy

Impact on bills

Greenpeace estimates that the subsidy package for the new reactors at Hinkley, Sizewell and Bradwell could add an extra £33 to the average household bill.

In contrast, new research shows that renewables are cutting the wholesale price of energy and reducing the impact of subsidies on bill payers.

‘With this deal George Osborne is not so much backing the wrong horse as betting billions of consumers’ money on a nag running backwards.

‘There’s no end in sight for the nuclear industry’s dependence on billion-pound handouts whilst the renewable sector is on the verge of going subsidy free. Backing the former and punishing the latter makes no economic sense whatsoever.

‘Our grandchildren will one day wonder why their bills are propping up a foreign-owned, outdated, and costly nuclear industry instead of supporting cutting-edge UK firms producing cheap clean energy.

‘There’s no other reason for the government to go through with this rotten deal but saving George Osborne’s face.’

Dr Doug Parr, Greenpeace UK chief scientist

Pricing up nuclear

The UK government has committed to paying Hinkley’s owners a fixed price of £92.50 for every megawatt/hour produced at the plant – or £89.50 if the Sizewell reactor goes ahead, too – for 35 years. This is nearly twice the current market price for electricity.

The government’s own auctions for clean energy have now found that onshore wind and solar are both cheaper than the strike price for Hinkley – and on shorter contracts.

History of delays

In 2007, EDF’s bosses said Hinkley would be cooking Christmas dinners in Britain in 2017. Now, in 2015, the Hinkley reactor is still at least 10 years away from being completed.

All EDF’s other attempts to build Hinkley-style EPR nuclear plants in other countries are running behind schedule. Construction of the EPR reactor at Flamanville began in 2007 and EDF has now asked for permission to push back the start date to 2020.

The EPR Okiluoto reactor in Finland was supposed to start in 2009 and might now come online in 2018.

A ‘bottomless pit’

Hinkley has been variously described as the ‘most expensive object ever built in Britain’, ‘one of the worst deals ever’ for British consumers and a ‘bottomless pit and a big white elephant’.

In a damning report, experts at banking giant HSBC wrote that they saw ‘ample reason for the UK government to delay or cancel the project’, pointing to major technical setbacks and sky-high costs.

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