From the © Carbon Brief
It’s rare these days to see British newspapers from across the political spectrum united in agreement on any issue. Beyond their shared disgust at FIFA, that is. Yet this week they produced a chorus of disapproval for the UK government’s deal with the Chinese to help finance the construction of Hinkley C, the UK’s first new nuclear power plant for a generation. The Telegraph said construction could now begin “within weeks”.
Nils Pratley in The Guardian spoke for many fellow commentators when he said the multi-billion pound deal “makes no sense on so many levels”. His colleague Damian Carrington, the Guardian’s head of environment, said the deal “detonates an atomic bomb under the UK government’s already bewildering energy policy”, pointedly noting that the government is now quietly admitting that nuclear, despite years of head-scratching denials, does receive public subsidy. The Observer was withering about the government’s energy policy: “You have to conclude that [it] lacks competence as well as vision.”
In a letter to the Times, 21 scientists and academics argued that “to slash and burn renewable investment for the sake of costly support for new nuclear is, at the very least, unwise”. Nick Butler in the Financial Times cautioned that “much remains to be negotiated, with the UK at a considerable disadvantage because of its all too evident desperation to complete a deal”. He added: “Energy policy cannot be built on optimistic assumptions. Prudence requires a degree of caution and preparation against the worst case — which at Hinkley must be that the EDF/Areva design of the EPR [ European Pressurised Reactor] is unconstructable in its current form.”
Carbon Brief travelled to Finland to look at the country’s own experience of trying to build an EPR – and it offers a cautionary tale for the UK of lengthy delays, infighting and overspending.
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC), meanwhile, could not have picked a more poignant week to publish its report on the cost of low-carbon sources of electricity. The BBC said that the CCC, the government’s official advisers on energy and climate change, concluded “low-carbon electricity, not gas, is the cheapest way to keep lights on and meet carbon targets”.
Carbon Brief also took a close look at the report discovering that the CCC “rows back from the stretching 2030 power decarbonisation target it once advocated, citing delays to the deployment of nuclear and carbon capture and storage”. We also examined what the CCC means when it says wind and solar farms will be effectively “subsidy-free” by 2020.