13 February 2017

Nuclear Subsidies

Ministers at the top of the UK government are wrangling over how to support the multibillion pound development of a host of new nuclear power plants, with some senior Treasury officials hostile to direct state subsidy. Philip Hammond, chancellor, and Greg Clark, business secretary, have both taken part in talks over support for new plants at Wylfa in Anglesey and Moorside in Cumbria, according to people involved in the process. The government views the projects, each expected to cost more than £10bn, as crucial to UK energy security and tackling climate change: Britain’s coal-fired power stations are being phased out and existing nuclear plants are reaching the end of their lives. Any deal would have to overcome opposition from parts of the Treasury, which has for decades resisted the idea of direct government investment in the expensive and risky business of building nuclear reactors. However, the question of how to support UK nuclear power has been given new urgency by the financial crisis at Toshiba, which is the main shareholder in the NuGen consortium behind Moorside. Toshiba is expected to spell out on Tuesday the full extent of an expected multibillion-dollar writedown on its US nuclear business and this could lead to its withdrawal from Moorside and other reactor construction projects around the world. NuGen is pinning its hopes on a mooted investment by Korea Electric Power Corporation, which is owned by the South Korean government, to keep Moorside on track; a deal for Kepco to buy some or all of Toshiba’s stake in NuGen could be announced soon, according to senior people in the nuclear industry. But even with Korean backing, NuGen is likely to need some form of government support to raise the billions of pounds needed for construction. The same is true of the Wylfa project planned by Horizon, which itself is owned by Hitachi, in Wales. People involved in both projects acknowledge that their plants will have to be cheaper than Hinkley to be politically viable.

FT 12th Feb 2017 read more »

Ministers are poised to admit that taxpayer cash will be used to fund a new fleet of nuclear power stations — reversing years of government opposition to direct public subsidy. With Britain’s ageing coal plants due to shut by 2025, the government is banking on new nuclear reactors going up at sites including Wylfa in Anglesey, north Wales, and Moorside in Cumbria. Successive energy ministers have insisted that no public cash will be used to fund this new generation. Yet industry sources say that energy secretary, Greg Clarke, that this hands-off approach and not persist if the plants are to be built. They say that Whitehall is preparing to launch a consultation…

Nuclear News 12th Feb 2017 read more »

Toshiba

Toshiba Corp will on Tuesday detail a writedown of close to $6 billion after bruising cost overruns at its U.S. nuclear arm, turning investor attention to the Japanese group’s efforts to fix that and other balance sheet headaches. The TVs-to-construction conglomerate warned of a potential multi-billion dollar nuclear writedown in December, a year after a $1.3 billion accounting scandal. Sources familiar with the matter say the final charge, to be detailed alongside quarterly earnings, will be as high as 700 billion yen ($6.2 billion), a sum which alone would wipe out the company’s shareholder equity. Toshiba, which has seen its market value almost halve since the prospect of a writedown emerged in December, is also expected to outline the prospects for its nuclear arm and update investors on efforts to raise capital, including through the sale of a stake in its flagship memory chips business.

Reuters 13th Feb 2017 read more »

Toshiba is facing a difficult conundrum as the Japanese industrial conglomerate prepares to unveil the scale of its multibillion-dollar writedown to its struggling US nuclear business this week. On Tuesday it will put a figure on the precise goodwill write-offs related to Westinghouse’s $229m purchase last year of US construction contractor Stone & Webster from Chicago Bridge & Iron. Investors have been waiting since Christmas for the promised clarity, which will far exceed the $87m goodwill charge originally forecast. The write-offs are down to still-unresolved delays and legal wranglings over two projects in the US. Toshiba’s lenders will need the company to pin down the exact size of the write-off, which analysts warn could be as large as $7bn, to judge whether they can continue offering their loans. But analysts warn that without an end in sight, nuclear experts say it will be virtually impossible for Toshiba to come up with an accurate estimate of future costs to which the company is exposed. That would leave the already cash-strapped group mired in even deeper financial trouble.

FT 12th Feb 2017 read more »

A few weeks ago, far off the beaten path in the Midlands, one of the largest construction cranes on the planet gently hoisted a 750-ton steam generator into place as part of the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station expansion. The heavy lifting isn’t over. In some ways, it could be just beginning for the various players immersed in the long-delayed $14 billion project, especially South Carolina Electric & Gas. For the moment, much of the focus is on Westinghouse Electric, the engineering, procurement and construction contractor at the rural V.C. Summer project site. Questions about its role have been swirling since late December, when parent company Toshiba Corp. dropped a post-holiday bombshell by announcing it will take a write-off that’s expected to total at least several billion dollars. The exact figure will be disclosed Tuesday.

Post and Courier 11th Feb 2017 read more »

Moorside

Ministers are under pressure to secure the future of the proposed Moorside nuclear plant in Cumbria as the industry braces for the potential withdrawal of Toshiba, the main developer. The Japanese conglomerate is due to give more details tomorrow about plans for overseas nuclear ventures after putting the entire business under review last month. Toshiba owns 60 per cent of the venture developing Moorside, which is due to use reactors made by Toshiba’s American subsidiary Westinghouse. It is said to be considering slashing its stake or withdrawing altogether as it battles multibillion-dollar losses because of cost overruns in S&W, a US nuclear construction business that Westinghouse bought two years ago. The decision comes at a sensitive time as the Conservatives are hoping to seize the Copeland parliamentary constituenc y, where the project is based, in a by-election next week. Greg Clark, the business and energy secretary, assured local residents that he would be “personally vigorous” in ensuring Moorside went ahead. He also played down the impact of any Toshiba exit, telling the local News & Star that Toshiba was “only part of the consortium” and that “the commitment of the consortium itself seems to be strong”. Moorside and a proposed Hitachi plant at Wylfa on Anglesey are supposed to follow EDF’s Hinkley Point plant as a new generation of power stations.

Times 13th Feb 2017 read more »

EDF

The explosion that ripped through an EDF plant at Flamanville last week, injuring five workers, was in a “non-nuclear area”. Thank goodness for that. But the damage it has inflicted on the reputation of France’s nuclear industry is radioactive enough and it could not have come at a more sensitive time. Across the Channel, an army of engineers is starting work on EDF’s new £18 billion nuclear station at Hinkley Point. Questions persist over the enormous cost of the Hinkley scheme. EDF, the world’s biggest nuclear generator, has brushed aside criticism of the cost and subsidies lavished on the project by pointing to its engineering prowess and record of building and operating nuclear plants. That reputation appears to be unravelling amid a catalogue of problems at both existing French reactors and others that are under construction. France’s 58 reactors, which generate 75 per cent of its electricity, are increasingly clapped out. They are approaching the end of their lives – a situation that poses a colossal headache for EDF. The cracks in France’s nuclear edifice are appearing. The nation’s regulator is concerned about weak spots in the steel of several operational reactors, forcing a string of shutdowns for checks last year. Last week’s blast offered further evidence that all was not well. France’s national audit office, the Cour des Comptes, says EDF will need to fork out about 100 billion euros renovating its reactors over the next 13 years to meet safety standards and to extend their lives beyond their 40 years. On top of that, the company is facing a bill of at least 54 billion euros to decommission plants that the regulator says must be shut down. Even for a state-backed behemoth such as EDF, these are eye-watering sums. What’s more, they must be met while the group bankrolls new-build projects such as Hinkley and another reactor at Flamanville.

Times 13th Feb 2017 read more »

Engie

Britain’s big six energy suppliers are facing a threat to their dominance after Engie, the French conglomerate, announced its arrival by undercutting their prices. The company, which is one third owned by the state, is the strongest entrant in the market for years. It has quietly started advertising a range of tariffs on price comparison websites before a formal launch expected in the spring. In an indication of its intent Engie’s cheapest deal – a fixed-price tariff until June 2018 – is cheaper than any currently offered by the big six at £932 a year, according to analysis by Moneysupermarket. A few thousand customers are understood to have signed up so far in what a source described as a “soft launch”. About 50 suppliers are selling gas and electricity to UK households, compared with 24 three years ago. Many are tiny operations with just a handful of staff and there are concerns about their financial health after GB Energy Supply went bust in November. However, the six biggest suppliers – British Gas, SSE, Scottish Power, EDF, Npower and Eon – still control about 85 per cent of the market. Engie, formerly known as GDF Suez, operates its energy and services businesses in 70 countries and is valued at 27 billion euros, putting it in a different league to most of the other new entrants. It already serves 17,000 industrial and commercial sites in the UK, placing it among the ten biggest business energy suppliers.

Times 13th Feb 2017 read more »

Energy Costs

UK households face a 42 per cent rise in the amount they pay to support government green energy initiatives, according to an analysis by one of the UK’s big independent power suppliers. Consumers help fund the provision of smart meters that reduce electricity use and subsidy schemes to encourage low carbon technology through their energy bills. First Utility, one of the UK’s biggest independent energy suppliers has calculated that the cost of funding these and other schemes will rise to £134.20 per customer per year from April, up from £94.50 in the previous year.

FT 12th Feb 2017 read more »

Rolls Royce

Rolls-Royce will report one of the biggest losses in British corporate history this week as Brexit and a corruption scandal leave an indelible mark on the famous aerospace company. City analysts have forecast that Rolls could report a pre-tax loss of more than £4bn – its worst ever – due to the sharp decline in the value of the pound and the £671m penalty that the company has agreed to pay to settle corruption allegations.

Guardian 11th Feb 2017 read more »

Nuclear Weapons

Two Salford councillors are amongst more than two dozen prominent Greater Manchester politicians who have signed a letter to Theresa May expressing concern about convoys carrying nuclear bombs that travel on roads that go near or through Greater Manchester.

Salford Star 12th Feb 2017 read more »

Renewables – offshore wind

Offshore windfarms could provide cheaper power than Britain’s new wave of nuclear power stations, a leading figure in the wind industry has claimed. Speaking to the Guardian, Hugh McNeal, the chief executive of trade body RenewableUK, said he expected that offshore windfarms would secure a deal with the government lower than the £92.50 per megawatt hour agreed with EDF for £18bn Hinkley Point C. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it [offshore wind] cleared Hinkley prices,” he said of the bidding for a £290m-a-year government subsidy pot in April. The auction is under a scheme known as contracts for difference, which offer generators a guaranteed price for their electricity above the wholesale price. A 35-year deal with EDF was agreed last year.

Guardian 12th Feb 2017 read more »

Renewables – tidal

Atlantis Resources, a global leader in the development of marine renewables, is to develop the Wyre tidal project on the Lancashire coast in partnership with Natural Energy Wire. The UK Government’s recent review of the potential for tidal lagoon power, led by Charles Hendry, former Minister for Energy, concluded that proceeding with a “pathfinder” project as well as other smaller projects would be consistent with the development of the potentially important resource of tidal power around the shores of the UK. The Wyre project, which has been under development for several years, is consistent with this objective, comprising of a 160 MW tidal power plant capable of producing up to 400GWh of completely carbon free power each year, coupled with flood protection.

Scottish Energy News 13th Feb 2017 read more »

Energy Efficiency

Streetlights connected to electricity networks in Kensington and Chelsea will now act as charge points for electric vehicles (EVs), while a Lanarkshire-based IT specialist has agreed to fund development of wind-harvesting lampposts in the UK.

Edie 10th Feb 2017 read more »

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Published: 13 February 2017