The Nuclear Energy (Financing) Bill has cleared its final hurdle in the House of Commons. It will force consumers to contribute towards the cost of nuclear stations during construction. MPs voted 458 to 53 in favour at third reading, and it will now be considered in the House of Lords. The SNP’s energy spokesperson Alan Brown MP said: “It is madness that during a cost of living crisis, the Tories are pushing through a bill that could see energy bill consumers forced to pay for another Tory vanity project.”
Flamanville 3 will be delayed to at least mid-2023. “The fuel loading date is rescheduled from the end of 2022 to the 2nd trimester 2023,” EDF said the estimated cost will rise from €12.4 billion to €12.7 billion. EDF downplayed the likelihood of similar problems at Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C, which will both use the same EPR design. The only site where its new EPR design is currently in operation is its co-owned Taishan nuclear plant in China, where one of its two reactors has been shut for repairs since June because of cracked fuel rods. Alison Downes, from the Stop Sizewell C campaign group, said the UK Government should “run a mile from EDF’s disastrous track record with the EPR and abandon Sizewell C”.
Meanwhile in France, the 4 most powerful reactors in the fleet, Chooz and Civaux, are shut down because of cracks on safety-critical pipes. On 13th January 13th it was announced that reactor 1 at Penly is also affected by this defect. EDF has been forced to revise downwards its estimate of nuclear production in France for 2022 from 330-360TWh to 300-330 TWh.
MI5 has issued a rare security alert to MPs about a Chinese agent who infiltrated parliament on behalf of the ruling Communist Party. Christine Lee donated more than £650,000, most of which to Barry Gardiner MP. She also gave £5,000 in 2013 to Sir Ed Davey, then the energy and climate change secretary. It is alleged that Lee tried to steer MPs language on sensitive infrastructure investment including China’s involvement in Hinkley and Sizewell. Ms Lee’s son worked for Barry Gardiner until Thursday morning. Gardiner spoke in favour of retaining Chinese involvement in Hinkley C, while serving as Labour’s shadow secretary of state for trade and a shadow minister for business and energy in September 2016. The MP also made a host of supportive remarks in response to a ministerial statement on a review of Hinkley. Mr Gardiner suggested that Chinese involvement did not pose a threat to sensitive intellectual property and that there was no cybersecurity risk because the project was a kitemark for marketing the Hualong One reactor technology around the world and therefore “such an attack would undermine the very reason the Chinese wanted to be involved in the project in the first place?”.
In an article for Open Democracy Andy Stirling & Phil Johnstone ask “Why is support for nuclear power noisiest just as its failures become most clear?” The UK government and mainstream media agree we need nuclear to avoid the worst climate change. They’re wrong – so why aren’t we hearing that? Despite the urgency of the climate emergency, there is strangely little discussion about this evidence that nuclear power may be impeding progress with options that clearly work better.
As we learnt last week the UK government has been talking to the energy industry about short-term ways to mitigate the huge increases in energy costs. There is little debate it has to act – the question is how. New Scientist has produced a helpful chart. A windfall tax on North Sea operators is also mentioned in the article. Emma Pinchbeck of trade body, UK Energy, says the long-term solutions are obvious – more energy efficiency and reducing our use of methane gas.
Another option emerged when The Times reported the Treasury is considering cutting the Energy Company Obligation – a £1bn a year levy on energy bills to help fund energy efficiency upgrades for around 200,000 households a year. Ed Matthew, at E3G, called it “the worst way to cut energy bills“.
Richard Lowes of the Regulatory Assistance Project says it’s disingenuous to say UK bills are being pushed up by climate and renewable policies. Any subsidy costs now pale into insignificance compared to wholesale prices. But one positive outcome of the price rises is that the idea of blue hydrogen is basically dead. There is still lots of energy efficiency which is cost-effective (even before the price rises). UK households could save more than £500 a year according to the Energy Efficiency Infrastructure Group saving the UK £7.8bn a year And, as an analysis by Cambridge Econometrics for Greenpeace showed decarbonising heating is far from a cost but actually a money maker because we spend so much on energy imports. Dr Richard Dixon, Director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, attacked the Tory ‘Net Zero Scrutiny Group’ for calling for a cut to green energy support, which he called “the worst of all options.”
The global gas supply crunch have focused minds on energy storage. The key to securing enough affordable, low-carbon energy is more storage to make the most of the renewable energy available. Global energy storage capacity in expected to expand by 56% to reach more than 270 GW by 2026. Well-established lithium-ion batteries are expected to dominate, but new technologies, which can store energy for longer periods, have found renewed favour. The Guardian looks at four long-range energy storage options: Gravity Storage (including pumped storage); Concentrated Solar Storage; Green Hydrogen; Liquid air or cryogenic batteries.
Meanwhile, a study into unlocking energy flexibility using technologies in UK homes has concluded that electricity demand could be lowered by up to 10% this decade if such tech was installed at scale.
Tidal stream energy could generate a tenth of Britain’s power, according to Stephen Wyatt, at Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult (ORE). Tidal stream technologies are proven and on the cusp of commercialisation, with the most advanced being home-grown in the UK. One of the appealing aspects of tidal is its predictability. Dr Wyatt said the technology could become cost-effective if it receives significant investment and subsidies, and could create 26,600 jobs by 2040.
A Renewables company has taken over a fracking firm to rescue stranded assets. It plans to install battery storage, apply for planning permission for a 50MW solar farm nearby and launch a geothermal pilot project in a former well.