News

20 July 2016

Hinkley

Several French trade unions walked out of a meeting with the economy minister on the nuclear sector on Monday, saying they did not want their participation used as a cover to sanction decisions such as on EDF’s Hinkley Point project in Britain. Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron was expected to meet the energy branch of the trade unions to discuss the overhaul of the French nuclear sector which has been in turmoil since the Fukushima disaster in 2011. The unions, worried that heavily indebted state-controlled utility EDF is taking on too much, are against the company pushing ahead with an 18 billion pound ($23.4 billion) plan to build a nuclear reactor complex at Hinkley Point in southern England and have asked for it to be delayed. Macron has backed the project and said he expects EDF to make a final investment decision in September. Representatives of several unions, including the hardline CGT and FO, arrived at the meeting, read a brief statement and left. “Nothing guarantees us that this meeting is not a facade to endorse a decision that we do not agree to. Among others, we reject any forceful decision on Hinkley Point,” the CGT, FO, CGC and UNSA unions said in a joint statement. The unions said that although the meeting was about the French nuclear sector that comprises several players such as AREVA and CEA, only EDF was present at the talks. The moderate CFDT union took part in the meeting.

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Posted: 20 July 2016

19 July 2016

Sizewell

A new report has raised “serious concerns” about the impact of construction traffic for Sizewell C on rural ares of east Suffolk. The report, commissioned by Suffolk County Council and produced by research agency Accent, shows traffic is the number one concern for the community, with residents requesting EDF Energy find a way of delivering its materials to the site in a way that minimises the amount of vehicles on the surrounding road network, in particular the B1122.

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Posted: 19 July 2016

18 July 2016

Energy Policy

A changing of the guard in an organisation is a good time at which to pause and reconsider every aspect of strategy. The mistakes of the past can be admitted, entrenched but outdated positions can be quietly left behind and altered circumstances accepted. That is what should happen now in the UK in relation to energy policy. DECC has been too small to carry weight in Whitehall and, as the mistakes on new nuclear and the Green Deal home energy-saving scheme have shown, it lacked key negotiating skills. In any case, what matters are the policies, not the architecture of Whitehall. There are four key areas where a reappraisal is justified. The first is new nuclear. Hinkley Point is at least eight years behind schedule and billions over budget. The cost estimate seems to rise every month, just as the date for a final investment decision is constantly pushed back. The project is a laughing stock, and ministers and officials have lost confidence in EDF and its management. As the National Audit Office made clear in a devastating report this week, the costs to the UK consumer and taxpayer are extraordinarily high. At the very least the agreement on the price to be paid for power from Hinkley must be renegotiated. The deal was struck three years ago, since when energy prices have dropped dramatically. The UK is locked unnecessarily into high energy prices — a fact reported this week to have been noted by Mrs May’s key adviser Nick Timothy. Rather than just renegotiating, however, it may now suit both the UK and EDF to scrap the project, opening the way for more reliable and cheaper new nuclear suppliers and more natural gas.

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Posted: 18 July 2016

17 July 2016

Hinkley

New Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond said today the Government “had to make sure” the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station on the Somerset coast was built.In one of his first interviews as Chancellor on BBC Radio 4, Mr Hammond said building the plant was essential to secure the country’s power supply needs.Mr Hammond spoke as the National Audit Office released a report suggesting that top up payments to EDF to help pay for the power station looked set to Skyrocket from £6.1bn to £29.7 billion – nearly five times the original estimate.This is because fossil fuel prices have dropped so dramatically that wholesale electricity prices have tumbled with them. The subsidy was designed to ensure operators of the power station had a stable income from it.

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Posted: 17 July 2016

16 July 2016

New Nuclear

Nuclear construction in the UK is expensive and slow in comparison to other countries, in part because the UK has not built any nuclear plants since the 1990s and lacks a proven supply chain, a report by the National Audit Office (NAO) says. The report says the cost of building new nuclear power plants in the UK ranges from around $60 per MWh to about $140/MWh. By comparison, these costs range from about $30/MWh-$55/MWh in South Korea; $50/MWh-$120/MWh in France, $45/MWh-$125MWh in Finland; and about $58/MWh-$100/MWh in the US. The estimates are based on discount rates of three percent and 10 percent. The discount rate is an estimate of the cost of capital for a given project. No new nuclear power stations have been built in the UK for over 20 years, the report says. “The UK lacks a proven, skilled supply chain to support the construction of a new power station. The costs to build ‘first-of-a-kind’ power stations will be much higher than in countries that have rolled out new facilities, where learning and expertise can be shared.”

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Posted: 16 July 2016

15 July 2016

New Nuclear

A new report on the future of Britain’s electricity supply from the government spending watchdog has highlighted the falling costs of renewables compared with nuclear, with figures projecting onshore wind and solar will be the cheapest ways of generating electricity by 2025. The report examines how new sources of electricity can be used to meet the looming capacity gap the UK faces over the coming decade while supporting emissions targets and keeping energy bills affordable. Its findings show that renewables may be a cheaper option than conventional energy sources, with Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) forecasts for the levelised cost of energy of wind and solar in 2025 having decreased since 2010. The cost forecast for nuclear during the same time period has increased while it has remained constant for gas. “Supporting early new nuclear projects could lead to higher costs in the short term than continuing to support wind and solar,” the report concludes. “The cost competitiveness of nuclear power is weakening as wind and solar become more established.” However, the NAO also said the projections for electricity costs do not reflect other factors such as the intermittency of wind and solar, which it said could require additional investment in new ways of distributing electricity compared with traditional fossil-fuelled sources. It therefore concludes that the decision to support nuclear relies “more on strategic than financial grounds” as it could complement the intermittent nature of wind and solar, while also being highly scaleable. “For wind and solar to generate the same amount of electricity as a nuclear power plant would mean covering large areas of sea or land, which could cause public opposition and technical challenges,” the report reads.

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Posted: 15 July 2016

14 July 2016

Hinkley

The cost to consumers of building the Hinkley Point nuclear power station could reach nearly £30 billion because of falling wholesale electricity prices, the spending watchdog has warned. Payments needed to guarantee the plant’s developer, EDF, a price for the electricity produced have more than quadrupled to £29.7 billion from £6.1 billion when the deal was agreed in 2013, the National Audit Office said. The “top-up” payments are met by consumers through a levy on bills. Theresa May has appointed a prominent critic of Hinkley, Nick Timothy, as a senior No 10 adviser. Mr Timothy has in the past stated that he was “baffled” by the project and criticised the role of Chinese investors, whom he has described as a potential security risk. A senior EDF manager told Le Parisien newspaper that EDF’s promise to set aside €24.7 billion to fund Hinkley Point was “vastly insufficient”, suggesting it could be twice that. Critics say that EDF, which has debts of €37 billion, cannot afford its part of the £18 billion that Hinkley Point was supposed to cost to build. That bill is being shared between EDF and CGN. They say that if the true price of construction was higher, the scheme would cripple the company.

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Posted: 14 July 2016

13 July 2016

Hinkley

The South West’s booming nuclear industry is creating opportunities all the way from Gloucester to Plymouth, MPs have claimed, as they stress the UK’s nuclear “revival” will go ahead. Speaking at a showcase of regional industry talent in Westminster, the Bridgewater and West Somerset MP Ian Liddell-Grainger claimed nuclear projects like Hinkley C are “crucial” to the country’s future. He was joined by experts from across the sector, as they debated the life-changing possibilities presented by investment in nuclear. Opening the event in Parliament, Mr Liddell-Grainger argued the UK industry must demonstrate “continuity, confidence and the ability to deliver”. Matt Burley, chairman of the newly-founded Nuclear South West group, also spoke at the event. He acknowledged that nuclear “is an emotive word” which “carries baggage and preconceptions”, but claimed the science backing up the industry is “demonstrably safe [and] demonstrably beneficial”.

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Posted: 13 July 2016

12 July 2016

Hinkley

New figures have revealed the cost of new build generation to consumers is reducing and that the lifetime cost of Swansea Bay tidal lagoon could be the same as the cost of Hinkley Point C. The report found that as enabling contracts are replaced by new competitive contracts, costs were being reduced and claims that the lifetime cost to consumers of its proposed Swansea Bay tidal lagoon could be the same as EDF’s Hinkley Point C nuclear plant. Over its operational lifetime of 120 years, tidal lagoon power could cost consumers an additional £25.78 per MWh on their energy bills based on a 90-year Contract for Difference (CfD). Hinkley Point C costs £25.78 per MWh, based on a 35-year CfD and operational life of 60 years but the costs are based on a load factor of 20% for Swansea Bay tidal lagoon and 91% for Hinkley Point C.

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Posted: 12 July 2016

11 July 2016

Hinkley

Interview with Prof Jim Skea is the chair in sustainable energy at Imperial College London’s Centre for Environmental Policy. He is a founding member of the UK’s Committee on Climate Change and in 2015 was elected co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change‘s Working Group III. He is vice-president of the Energy Institute. Do you think Hinkley C [nuclear power plant in Somerset] will be built? And, if not, how will that gap in the UK’s energy mix be plugged?: With the various positions I hold, I am very reluctant to comment on individual projects. But the decision on Hinkley C, I don’t think hangs so much on UK energy policy as on decisions that are being made in France, because there are well publicised differences among different members of the EDF board, for example. I think the other thing to mention is that Hinkley Point isn’t the only nuclear game in town for the UK. The Hitachi Project, with the boiling water reactor, is also going through its regulatory process. You could argue that Hitachi probably has deeper pockets than EDF to carry this one through. So even if Hinkley were not to go ahead, it wouldn’t necessarily be the end of the nuclear story for the UK. But it would presumably leave a big hole – a 7% hole or whatever we variously get told about what it would mean. So, you think other nuclear would fill that void, or do you think other low-carbon sources of power would come into play at that point? It depends how strong any government wanted to be about the carbon intensity of electricity by around 2030 because there are many things, actually, that could fill the gap covered by Hinkley Point. And I don’t think security of supply is necessarily a worry that’s caused by Hinkley Point. It could be filled in by renewable energy and renewables projects have a three- or four-year planning timeline to get them through, whereas a nuclear station it’s decade at least, on experience. So there are other technologies that could come and fill the gap more quickly. If we were not to be strict on the carbon intensity of electricity, then you would find gas could fill the gap as well, if all you were worried about was getting the kilowatt hours out and you weren’t so troubled about the carbon dimension of it.

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Posted: 11 July 2016