Hinkley Point C runs into problems
To the surprise of absolutely no-one, it has been revealed that the gigantic nuclear reactor in development at Hinkley Point C is going to be delivered very late and very over budget. French energy supplier EDF, a two thirds stakeholder in the project, has reported that the reactor will need an extra £1.5bn in funding and is likely to be delivered at least 15 months late. Given that the project is meant to supply a full 7% of Britain’s projected future energy needs, this is quite concerning.
Given that this is the first year of development, it would be prudent to expect costs to rise even further in the future. Indeed, other developments following the same design have also been beset by serious and prolonged issues and provide an instructive case study. The Flamanville plant in France is three times over budget and six years late; the Olkiluoto plant in Finland is doing even worse, coming in at 60% over budget and running nine years behind schedule. The omens are not good.
Hinkley Point C was given the final rubber stamp in 2016 by Theresa May’s government, committing the British tax payer to paying a huge bill over many years for a power station which doesn’t seem to be even nearly the best option. According to the National Audit Office, Hinkley Point C “locks consumers into a risky and expensive project with uncertain benefits.” Their overall judgement is that the case for Hinkley Point C is “marginal, and subject to significant uncertainty”.
The government has promised EDF a price of £92.50 per megawatt hour of energy produced at Hinkley Point C no matter what the wholesale price. This guarantee is clearly a madness given that £92.50 is almost double the current market price for a megawatt of energy. The days of the nuclear industry claiming that their electricity would be ‘too cheap to meter’ appear to have been consigned firmly to the past.
The Conservative obsession with avoiding state energy projects at any cost and allowing the private sector to dictate the energy security of the nation was always likely to lead to folly, and so it has proven. The British tax payer will be propping up this power station for decades and all the profit will be going to French and Chinese state run companies. Why this is preferable to the income going to the British state has never been explained. Right wing allergy to any sort of state enterprise has consistently dumped the British tax payer into financial hardship over the years, and Hinkley Point C looks set to carry that tradition on into the far future.
All of this cost being foisted onto the taxpayer does not take into account that the price of energy is falling all the time thanks to renewable alternatives.
The irony is that nuclear power is promoted by its supporters as a ‘clean’ energy source which is worth the cost, but Britain is a country with a remarkable amount of free and truly clean energy up for grabs already – if only we would actually harness it.
The UK is the windiest country in Europe and is already home to huge and groundbreaking wind farms which are leading the world. The amount of wind the UK experiences every year could power the country several times over. It really is a shame that successive Conservative governments have done everything they can short of actually banning renewable energy to hamstring the national wind farm industry.
The UK is also at the bleeding edge of tidal power and tidal lagoon power. Both of these industries are running extensive, expensive tests around the country and are seeing fantastic results. For an island nation sat at the epicentre of some of the world’s strongest currents it beggars belief that we are not investing more in this.
And that is not to mention solar energy which is coming on leaps and bounds in the UK. New records for solar generation are being set all the time, the latest being in May 2017 when almost a quarter of all energy used in the UK was generated from solar energy. As with wind power, it is a real shame that successive Conservative governments have seen fit to scrap regulations which actively increased the use of solar energy in the UK, in favour of funnelling yet more money towards fossil fuel power plants.
Hinkley Point C has all the hallmarks of a project which will come to be seen as an enormous fraud perpetrated on the British public by politicians and corporations who cared about the wrong things. By the time it is built it will be years late, have run wildly over budget, will produce power for a much higher cost than the alternatives, and will essentially be a vehicle for funnelling British money abroad to foreign governments.
It is a modern disgrace and all the evidence suggests that the plug needs pulling on the whole project now before even more ill-fated public money is poured into it.