Negotiations over the guaranteed price EDF hopes to receive for electricity from its planned new reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset don’t seem to have made much progress over the last three months. The press continues to report contradictory information, but Energy Minister Michael Fallon says the Government and EDF still disagree on “five or six” issues. He insists the French company does not have the Government over a barrel, because Hitachi has started the four or five year process of getting its reactor design approved for construction at Wylfa on Anglesey and Oldbury in Gloucestershire.
Dr Tim Fox, head of energy at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, has declared that Hinkley C might never be built. Even if EDF manages to agree a “strike price” with the government there is no guarantee it will be able to attract the investment it needs to start construction, or get approval for the subsidies from the European Commission.
The Energy Bill, which will implement Electricity Market Reform has now received its final reading in the House of Commons and will go on to the House of Lords. Caroline Lucas MP put forward amendments to the Bill which sought to simply return us to the coalition agreement position that new nuclear should receive no public subsidy. It has been shocking how Ministers, especially Liberal Democrats, have ditched this commitment so shamelessly.
Lucas says if the Government was serious about tackling fuel poverty it would not sign up to a 35 or 40-year contract which involved paying twice the current market price for electricity. The Association for the Conservation of Energy argues that new reactors could cost up to £1 trillion more than necessary over the contract period.
Everyone is agreed that energy prices are certain to go up, but the Government hopes to limit price rises to £64 per year, but that depends on people buying new efficient white goods and taking out Green Deal loans. Instead the number of cavity walls being insulated has collapsed by 97% and so far fewer than 200 households have taken out Green Deal loans according to Radio 4’s You and Yours.
As former Labour MP, Alan Simpson, points out: “…hundreds of thousands of the fuel poor will die in this decade ….This is not a programme, it’s a road crash.”
12th June 2013