Geoffrey Lean writing in The Telegraph called this “a really dreadful week” for nuclear. Greenpeace called it a “triple whammy”. First Cumbria County Council decided to put a stop to site searches for a nuclear waste dump. Then the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee raised the lid on the shambolic scandal that is Sellafield. And finally Centrica, pulled out of its partnership with EDF to build Britain’s first new reactors in 20 years.
But more dark clouds are gathering, as EDF Energy tries to blackmail the Government into breaking its promises and paying large subsidies for new reactors. EDF says it will walk away if the government does not deliver an adequate guaranteed price for the electricity generated. The CEO said “I won’t qualify myself as confident” about reaching an agreement with the Government on a guaranteed price – the so-called “strike price” – for Hinkley C. “I have no reason to take the pressure off the people I’m talking to.”
EDF insists its plans will not be derailed by Centrica’s decision to pull out. The energy industry had hoped it would have another investor lined up by the time Centrica announced its widely anticipated pull-out, but discussions are still ongoing with Chinese state-owned nuclear company Guangdong Nuclear Power Group (CGNPC) about investing. EDF says the company will only be able to attract new partners if the government ensures an adequate price for the electricity.
Desperate to save face the Treasury now wants to risk taxpayers’ money as well as electricity consumers’ money. According to Construction News, it is willing to negotiate a Government Guarantee using its balance sheet. Centrica’s decision has left the Government “backed into a UK Guarantees corner” and looking at alternative finance solutions.
Caroline Lucas points out that while the energy bill is set to deliver a backdoor subsidy for nuclear, truly sustainable renewables like wind, solar, waste digestion, wave and tidal are in danger of being sidelined once again.
8th February 2013