Clean Power

Published on October 30th, 2013 | by Zachary Shahan


Hinkley C Nuclear Power Plant To Get Twice The Rate As Solar PV From UK Government

October 30th, 2013 by  

In a demonstration of how out of touch the UK government is with public opinion, it intends to pay approximately twice as much for electricity from the proposed Hinkley C nuclear power plant near Bristol than is paid for electricity from solar power in Europe. With high public support for solar PV and low support for nuclear, that’s quite absurd. It’s also very absurd from an economic standpoint.

Dr David Toke of the University of Aberdeen writes: “Looming large over the UK Government’s EU state aid application for Hinkley C is the charge that this deal will distort the EU’s internal market, in particular to undercut solar pv arrays in Germany over 10 MW in size. Such arrays are no longer eligible to receive premium prices under the German feed-in tariff system. Such plant will only receive the wholesale electricity price, which is less than half the rates to be paid to Hinkley C.”

Dr William Nuttall of the Open University writes: “Today’s news is that a two reactor power station is to be built at Hinkley Point near Bristol capable of supplying 3,340MW, or roughly 7% of British electricity in the 2020s. This has come at a price, called the ‘strike price’. French company EDF Energy, the lead firm of the construction consortium, has secured a long-term commitment from the government that the nuclear-powered electricity it generates will be bought at the hefty price of £92.50 per megawatt hour. That wholesale price is almost double today’s market price, and isn’t far off what the end consumer is paying today to keep their lights on. When wholesale prices meet retail prices things are unsustainable. Don’t forget that between power generation and use there are businesses that deal with transmission, distribution and supply, and they all need their cut.”

Furthermore, as a summary by Craig Morris of Renewables International indicates, the payments are supposed to be guaranteed even if electricity is not provided to the grid because of curtailment, and the guarantee is supposed to last for 35 years, which would be from 2023 (if the power plant is miraculously built on time) to 2058.

With the guaranteed price already well above what solar and wind power cost (and their costs continuously declining), the taxpayer commitment for this power plant is so crazily high that it seems this story should be coming from The Onion rather than reality.

The UK’s move to subsidize nuclear power to such an insane degree is simply astonishing.

Dr Toke has more on how this commitment goes completely against EU rules:

The fact that the Hinkley C deal distorts the EU’s internal market to give a state aid to nuclear power that is not available to renewable energy directly flies in the face of the EU’s state aid regulations. Under these rules it is permissable to give premium price incentives to renewable energy, subject to clearance by the EU Commission that they have been applied according to the correct procedure. However, state aid for non-renewable energy, while not necessarily illegal under EU rules, has to be the subject of a special application. The issue that arises here is that the UK Government, in effect, is wanting to give priority state aid in the EU electricity market to a fuel which has no exemption over and above a fuel which does have an exemption.

The UK is going to be increasing trade in electricity along with the others, with increased electricity interconnector capacity helping this. But what is going to be happening now? British policy will be giving a state-aided competitive advantage to nuclear power in this cross border trade over and above renewable energy. This threatens to directly contradict EU competition and internal market policy and law.

This issue will be a prominent factor in the European Commission’s investigations in the UK Government’s application for state aid for Hinkley C (for which it has recently notified the Commission). Renewable generators across the EU will be pointing out how the UK policy may be contravening EU law. Analysts will remember that it took a case at the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to establish the right of the German state to give premium prices to renewable energy. What would the ECJ say about a case where nuclear power was being given priority premiums in the EU electricity market against renewable energy? I can see no basis in law for this, as discussed above.

For much more, I recommend Dr Toke’s, Dr Nuttall’s, and Craig Morris’ articles on the subject.

For other interesting nuclear stories, take a stroll through our nuclear energy archives.

Check out our new 93-page EV report, based on over 2,000 surveys collected from EV drivers in 49 of 50 US states, 26 European countries, and 9 Canadian provinces.

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in.

  • Will E

    Remember decommission Sellafield.
    until now cost 100 billion USD and not done.
    UK state has to take over.
    google Sellafield for more info.

  • paul

    have i got it right , 203.13 mi sq for solar as this seems a lot to me !

    390.63 mi sq for wind !

    I think somerset is 1333 mi sq . Exmoor was designated as a National Park in 1954 and covers 689 square kilometres (268 square miles), of which 170 square kilometres (73.36 square miles) lies in Somerset. Exmoor National Park is specially protected as one of our finest landscapes and an important part of our national heritage. but if we covered it in solar panels then as long as it is sunny we would not need Hinckley Point ,!!!!!

    • Bob_Wallace

      Obviously your area for wind is wrong. I don’t even need to do any math to determine that.

      Take the number of turbines you determined and multiply by 0.0004 square miles. Do that and you’ll get an accurate estimate. A wind turbine uses, on average, one quarter acre for footing, transmission, access roads and ancillary buildings.

      640 acres per square mile. One acre = 0.0016 sq. miles. One quarter acre = .0004 sq. miles.

      For example 1,000 wind turbines use 0.4 square miles. The UK would need to install 977,000 turbines to use as much land as you calculated.

      Remember, the area between turbines is not used for turbines. It’s used for something else like farming or grazing. If you built a nuclear reactor at Landewednack and another at Thurso would you then say that two nuclear reactors require 50,350 square miles?

      Now as far as putting panels on Exmoor National Park, are they going to build the Hinkley reactors in the middle of Exmoor National Park? If not, why would you suggest putting solar panels there? Would it be that you are a nuclear fanboi trying to support a foolish decision to build very expensive nuclear power in the UK?

      Why would the solar panels be put where they belong – on rooftops?

      Honest arguments, please Paul, honest arguments….

      • Paul

        i would like you to know that I am neither for or against , was just trying to get a simple ans to a question , my example of Exmoor was only to demonstrate a rough size of area , as I live very close to the proposed site of Hinckley point just wanted to know if there was a viable alternative but as always those who dont live here are very quick to ruin our country side with large areas of wind or/and solar,
        the best alternative as far as I can make out after trying to sift through all the bias crap that different people are willing to let come out of their mouths is Tidal power as this is a known constant , but is constantly put down by all the bunny and tree huggers as it might affect the sea birds or fish , as always THEY DONT LIVE HERE
        I am all for alternative renewable energy and it would be fantastic if it could be made to work , one of my ambitions is to build my own house that is totally powered of grid , but land is expensive and planning permission is near impossible .
        I have lived in Germany , where things are very different but they started to invest a long time ago and spent a fast amount of money on there projects also taxes are a great deal higher than the uk. one point I have never been sure about is to do with solar panels , having owned a narrow boat that had panels on its roof we had to have five large batteries to store the power because the time you needed the power was at night ,
        how would the solar or wind power be stored
        how much space would be needed for this .
        how long would it last before needing to be replaced
        at what cost
        also how many years do solar panels last
        do they lose efficiency as they age
        and how would they be disposed of at the end
        I look forward to some ans as this is a very important and interesting subject that we as people must try and get right


        • globi

          The area on German buildings amounts to 2344 km^2:
 (and Britain is not that much smaller than Germany).

          Covered with PV 2344 km^2 is enough to produce approx. 350 TWh which is over 1300% more energy than what the new Hinkley point reactor which needs to import 100% of its fuel would be able to produce.

          Also, as opposed to PV nuclear power plants cannot be placed on existing buildings and roofs and food can be grown around wind-farms but cannot be grown and harvested around Uranium mines which do also contaminate large areas…

          Also, the renewable industry in German pays taxes and feed-in tarifs are not paid by taxes. And while Britain has a huge trade deficit, Germany has a huge trade surplus.

          Btw, if you apparently live very close to Hinkley point why did you misspell it?

          • paul

            Sorry for getting the spelling wrong . but still not ans my questions , so here are a few more
            what happens when the wind is not blowing
            what happens at night
            how many roofs are not suitable to take panels
            in England we have planning restrictions on which houses can have panels
            and I live in Cannington just a few miles from HINKLEY how dare you question that , if you don’t know where that is look it up on Google Earth !!!!!

          • Bob_Wallace

            Look over on the right side of the page for “100% Renewable Energy Possible?” and start reading.

            BTW, word is leaking out that Hinkley may be ditched and the idea of dropping a long extension cord to Iceland is getting considered instead.

          • PAUL

            I give up none of you is brave enough to tell it as it actually is , as I said before im all for renewable s but it needs to actually work for all our needs ,
            what about hot rocks under ground
            what about tidal barriers
            what about elephant grass
            and what about fuel from stinging nettles ,
            all these would not effect my view and my countryside ,
            if you live in a city make your own power where you live , and pay for it , and leave our countryside alone ,

          • Bob_Wallace

            Whatever, Paul.

          • Paul

            Typical Bob , you have not got any ans , where do you live ,
            bet its in a city or town and your job is not effected by this ?
            Im trying to have an informed conversation but you cant do that with people with closed minds !!!!!
            typical ans from someone with no mind of there own .
            WHATEVER sounds like you are a teenage idiot
            We might get a tidal barrage on the river Parrett , this could have Turbines built into it and could produce power day and Night 24/7 but then I bet the tree huggers will object to that and it wont get built . If you dont know where that is look it up !!
            Oh and BTW there are plans being put in for a Hinkley D.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Actually, Paul, you aren’t at all trying to have a informed conversation.

            You’re just ranting.

          • A Real Libertarian

            “WHATEVER sounds like you are a teenage idiot”

            Irony alert!

          • Paul

            As always no ans to any real questions .
            Closed minds = no solutions
            This all started with one question but no one has the guts to ans it ,
            I will set it again just in case there is one person who actually knows what they are talking about .
            How many square miles of solar panels would be needed to produce the same amount of power that Hinkley point c will produce .
            Please bare in mind that we are talking about England not the U S A , this was set as a quiz question and haven’t been able to find an unbiased ans from any point of view ,
            ans would need to be .
            Power produced by Hinkley c = ?
            Power produced by 1 panel = ?
            Number of panels needed to produce same = ?
            Area needed to accommodate panels in square miles = ?
            need to take into account that there are gaps in the rows of panels and size and output power also not all need to be in the same area but just the total area needed and what the difference is for ,
            Time of day
            Time of year
            please don’t say about roofs as its just the total area in square miles I need , thank you

          • Bob_Wallace

            Those are numbers you could work up yourself in a few minutes.

          • Paul

            not that clever im afraid, was hoping someone would have the ans and also have panels improved output efficiency ?
            was thinking one of you guys who have all the ans to everything else would be able to ans or work it out or is the ans not available or not able to be given ?

  • Paul

    Also I would like the ans for wind turbines as well either in area or number , this of course would be dependent on the wind blowing at the right speed !

  • Paul

    Can anyone tell the truth and please ans this question for me , what area in sq miles of solar panels would be needed to produce the same amount of power as Hinckly Point on a normal winters day in the uk . I have been told it would be around 48sq miles as long as the sun is shinning ! and this is only at the best point of the day .
    no bias ans , just the truth please .

  • Ronald Brakels

    It appears that one of the ways the cost of Hinkley C will be met is with a subsidy from other forms of generation including wind and solar:

    This subsidy is small compared to the twin Godzilla’s of the 15 cents a kilowatt-hour minimum price and dumping the cost of insurance on the British public, but getting renewables to subsidize nuclear is very salt in woundy. It makes me wonder if their motivation is to get an award for Mustache Twirling Villainy.

    • A Real Libertarian

      I’m pretty sure even Dastardly Whiplash would be shouting “You Monster!” at that.

  • Bob_Wallace

    The Peach Bottom reactor site was found to have guards who routinely slept while on duty. All of them.

    Looks like the staff at Dresden might have topped that….

    “The NRC investigated the incident in which senior reactor
    operator Michael J. Buhrman, planned to rob an armored car and
    recruited the assistance of another senior reactor operator, Landon E.
    Brittain. The plan was not carried out. However, Buhrman was apprehended
    for aggravated vehicular carjacking and fled the country after being
    released on bail. He was tried and sentenced in absentia. Brittain has a
    number of criminal charges pending against him.

    The NRC concluded that Buhrman’s and Brittain’s actions while offsite
    demonstrated they could not be relied upon to adhere to NRC
    requirements to protect plant and public safety. In addition, Dresden
    personnel who knew about Buhrman’s plan to commit an offsite crime
    failed to report the situation to plant management, which is an NRC
    requirement for workers who have unescorted access to the plant.”

    Nuclear energy – Too safe to meter….

  • Ronald Brakels

    So Britian really is going to Hinkle to the C? Well I guess someone had to be the world’s largest nuclear laughing stock. Sorry US State of Georgia, it looks like you lose. And I really do hope it is a laughing stock as that’s the best option. A weeping tragedy is a real possibility. If anyone had any lingering doubts that Britian’s leadership is economically rational and that the country’s dismal economic performance has been solely due to the outside influence of immortal Nazi Supervillians or something, this should put any lingering doubts to rest. Right now in the UK utility solar power is producing electricity at 11 cents or less per kilowatt-hour. Point of use solar is much less than that and new wind power is less than half that:

    But they decide to pay a minimum of 15 cents a kilowatt-hour for electricity from Hinkley C and dump the vast bulk of the insurance costs onto the public which may make the actual cost of its electricity for the British public over 25 cents a kilowatt-hour. So very dumb.

    • Ronald Brakels

      I don’t know what it would cost to fully insure the Point Hinkley C nuclear plant, unliike TEPCO at least they aren’t using a design that wears its nuclear waste as a hat:

      (Personally I think the article exaggerates the danger. After all, TEPCO says it’s safe. What reason could anyone possibly have not to trust them?)

  • Others

    $23 billion for 3.3 GW means $7 billion / GW and thats prohibitively expensive.
    Why should it take 10 years when Chinese are building the same reactor in 5 years with price tag of $4 billion / GW.

    And the price of 0.15 US Cents / KWh, will that price be maintained for the entire 35 years of contract. Probably the Coal / Oil fueled Britain is thinking that these are the main fuels thru 2020s.

    Britain has massive Wind / Wave potential and can raise their Wind capacity further with the upcoming Wave Power.

    • Bob_Wallace

      15c/kWh is just the starting price. The price is inflation indexed.

      Plus the build is being subsidized with taxpayer loan guarantees.

    • eject

      It is GBP 42 billion not USD 23 billion. That is utter crazy Money.
      Plus on top they basically have to buy:
      3.3GW * 0.92 capacity factor *24h* 365 days * 25 years * GBP 90 000 strike price = stupid money, proper loads of it

  • JamesWimberley

    American readers may underestimate the force of the legal argument. If the EU Commission rules against the Hinkley subsidy as unfair competition, and is backed by the ECJ, where does that leave Cameron? Defying EU law would be an extreme move against his style. The conflict could get folded into his promised renegotiation of EU membership (which will get nowhere) followed, if the Tories are still in power after the next election, by a referendum on EU membership. However, this could backfire. As a ringing patriotic argument, “the evil Eurocrats are preventing us from wasting billions of your money on obsolete technology” lacks that little something.

  • Ivor O’Connor

    Fortunately it is not costing us anything here in America. The UK does as the UK will.

    • Bob_Wallace

      It’s a new generation of decision makers. They’re going to have to build one in order to relearn the facts.

      You can tell children to not touch a hot stove but some have to learn the hard way.

      • Ivor O’Connor

        Did the old generation make better decisions?

        • Dave2020

          No, they didn’t!!!!!

          This is an occasion where EU state aid rules should be strictly enforced, with a ‘bias’ to HELP new renewable technologies. The imposition of similar restrictions on the state funding of ‘commercial’ R&D on new technology is insane.

        • Bob_Wallace

          No, we kept on building reactors as they got more and more expensive while expecting the next one to deliver electricity too cheap to meter.

          But eventually we figured it out.

      • Ted

        But it will insure power for the next generation of children, hot stove are one of those thing that used too much energy we have to still work on how to lower that power factor.

  • eject

    Sadly the public opinion (more then 50% that is) is in favor of nuclear power plants. What they disagree with is the French and Chinese building them.

    I like it somewhat that the are building them. It will be the living proof that Nuclear is simply way to expensive or generating electricity. I am not even sure if they will ever come only. There is no way that they will be finished on schedule and in 10-15 years wind and solar will be so cheap that it would b crazy to actually fuel the plant and throw good money after bad.

  • Alex

    This is stupid, economic madness driven by ideological insanity.

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