The government of Austria is planning to make a legal challenge with regard to the European Union’s relatively recent decision to allow the Hinkley Point C nuclear energy project to be subsidized to the tune of billions of pounds, according to recent reports.
The European Union (EU) approved Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant receiving a £17.6 billion subsidy deal last October — a decision that was met with a fair amount of debate at the time. Austria’s appeal (to be launched in April) could mean that the subsidy deal will be, at the least, delayed for 1–2 years.
Given that Luxembourg — nuclear-free, like Austria — is considered very likely to support the appeal, there appears to be a fair deal of opposition behind the approval of the subsidy package. There are reportedly other countries that might back the appeal as well, but that’s unverified as of right now.
The reasoning behind the legal challenge is that the UK’s 35-year loan guarantees constitute illegal state aid.
“There has been a high-level decision by our chancellor and vice chancellor to challenge the EU decision on Hinkley within two months of its publication in the EU’s official journal,” stated Andreas Molin, the director of Austria’s environment ministry, in a conversation with the Guardian.
The foreign policy adviser to the Austrian federal chancellory, Stefan Pehringer, stated: “The Austrian government has announced its readiness to appeal against the European Commission’s decision concerning state aid for the Hinkley Point project, as it does not consider nuclear power to be a sustainable form of technology — neither in environmental nor in economic terms.”
The Hinkley project represents what is, if completed, the first new nuclear reactor in the UK in ~20 years — representing a step backwards for opponents of the technology. (There are numerous good reasons for opposing the technology, as evidenced by this recent news: Uranium Contamination Persisting At Old Processing Sites Despite Remediation.)
It’s worth noting here, though, that if Hinkley C is completed and performs according to expectations, it’s expected to cover roughly 7% of the UK’s electricity needs by 2023, with a 3.3 GW generating capacity — with the power generated being bought at a strike price of £92.50 per megawatt-hour, roughly twice the market rate.
The approval of the project’s subsidy deal — between the French state-owned EDF and the UK government — was previously described by David Cameroon as being “a very big day for our country.”
Commenting on an analysis of European court cases of this type done by the Austrian government, Molin stated that this might go on longer than normal, “as this is going to be a more complicated and fundamental case, it will last a little bit longer. Two years could be a rough guess.”
Molina concluded: “If you accept the argument that Hinkley constitutes a ‘market failure’ as put forward by the commission, you could apply it to all other means of electricity production, probably all other forms of energy conversion, and it might even apply beyond the energy sector. We think that the single energy market itself is at stake in this case.”
Work on the project has reportedly already begun.
Image Credit: Hinkley via Wiki CC
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