In the BANNG column for Regional Life in November 2019 Andy Blowers considers it wrong that consumers and taxpayers should be made to subsidise foreign companies to provide nuclear power
Renewables now provide over a third of electricity consumed in the UK and their costs continue to fall. The latest contracts for offshore wind are priced at £39.65 per MWh, way below the eye-watering contract price of £92.50 per MWh (index linked for thirty-five years) agreed for nuclear electricity from Hinkley Point C, when and if it starts production. Despite the gross disparity in costs, the Government claims it is essential to have nuclear power if we are to meet our commitment to net zero carbon emissions by mid-century.
There is something almost desperate about the latest wheeze to make nuclear power more competitive. It goes by the name of RAB (Regulated Asset Base financing or, as BANNG Co-ordinator, Peter Banks, calls it, ‘Ridiculous Atomic Bailout’). The idea is that consumers of electricity together with taxpayers take on some of the risks and pay the costs of new nuclear power stations up front. This pay-as-you-go scheme is intended to lower the developer’s investment costs (for power stations that do not yet exist and may never) and, consequently, lead to lower prices for electricity once the power station is switched on.
To put it in context, if RAB was to be applied to specific projects, UK consumers and taxpayers would be subsiding the French/Chinese partnership that is building Hinkley Point C and that intends to develop Sizewell C and Bradwell B. Even then it is difficult to see how the price for power from these projects could come anywhere near the latest (unsubsidised) renewable contracts.
There is growing evidence that renewables technology (wind, solar, storage) and energy efficiency will fill any energy gap with much cheaper, cleaner, low carbon power. There is simply no need for new nuclear expensively displacing cheaper renewables. Certainly by the time Sizewell C or Bradwell B are ready in the mid-thirties they could prove inflexible, expensive and unwanted cuckoos in the nest of a balanced, flexible and renewable energy system.
It would be pernicious if all electricity consumers and all taxpayers of Essex and Suffolk were forced to pay for the unnecessary destruction of their precious environments, not to mention the risk from long-term storage of dangerous wastes on low-lying coastlands threatened by climate change.