Why FOE Should Demand Government Scrap Hinkley C Plan

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Originally published on Real Feed-In Tariffs.
By Dr David Toke

Below is a copy of a letter I have sent to Simon Bullock, the Senior Energy Campaigner of Friends of the Earth
Dear Simon,
Thank you for news of FOE’s activities, which are most welcome. However, I am struck by one crucially important omission – a demand for the Government to scrap Hinkley C and replace it with plans for investment in more renewable energy. This is vitally important for the future of investment in renewables simply because long term plans are now being put in place in the government machinery for decarbonisation that will place far too little emphasis on renewable energy. This is because large amounts of ‘fantasy’ new  nuclear power are being pencilled into the decarbonisation programme that, as no doubt you know, will not be carried out. This will not only lead us with a big hill to climb in terms of future decarbonisation, but pave the way for considerable under-investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency compared to what is required.
It is therefore of supreme importance to press the government to recognise a reality which is increasingly recognised by the energy industry at large, namely that the Hinkley C project is doomed. Recognition of this failure ought also to lead to a wider re-appraisal of the relative costs and practicality of the so-called ‘new nuclear build’ programme compared to renewable energy and energy efficiency.
It has seemed that a significant section of green opinion has been reluctant to overtly oppose the notion  that decarbonisation should include new nuclear power. Yet it should be manifestly apparent now that the reality of the situation is that an effective decarbonisation strategy cannot be achieved if nuclear power is included in decarbonisation programmes. Inclusion of notional but ultimately un-implemented plans for new nuclear power simply means that there will be under-investment in renewable and energy efficiency. This is compared to a more realistic appraisal which based decarbonisation on more investment in renewable energy. Resources of wind power and solar pv alone (onshore and offshore) are immense, and, in any case, demonstrably cheaper than even some rather optimistic notions of what nuclear power costs (as represented by the Government’s own proposed Hinkley C contract). The very fact that the Treasury caps spending on ‘low carbon’ energy spending means that as money is pencilled in for notional (fantasy) nuclear power, less will be available for renewable energy.
Of course a key priority at the moment is to ensure that the Treasury and DECC release more funds under their ‘LCF’ policy to enable implementation of renewable energy targets for 2020, including, of course, for onshore wind. But it would be a grave mistake to believe that what is being decided now and in the next couple of years will not set the agenda for the early 2020s. The CCC, for example, are now deliberating on their fifth carbon budget to cover the period starting in 2028. We must act now to safeguard not only the present, but also the future.
The process for Electricity Market Reform started off with discussions in OFGEM, DECC and the Treasury in 2008-9, and the first projects under EMR will only become implemented in 2016 – a lead time of 8 years, something that is fairly typical in government policymaking. Industrial investment cycles themselves have to depend on these policy cycles and so industry really needs strong signals about what is likely to happen with perhaps notice of a decade.
It is, in terms of decarbonisation strategy, a disaster that we have now gone 10 years already with a failing national policy supposedly heading towards a ‘new’ nuclear power programme. Not only is such a programme grossly delayed but is in fact never likely to occur. That is it will never occur short of the effective nationalisation of nuclear construction and the consequential squandering of vast resources that would be much better deployed on green energy schemes. I would add  that we should firmly squash any hint that we can rely on reviving otherwise  long abandoned notions of ‘small’ nuclear reactors and ‘thorium’ rectors. Such ideas are pipedreams  that will, if implemented, turn into nightmares of a financial black hole.
I therefore call upon you in strong terms to put demands for the scrapping of Hinkley C to the Government, accompanied by demands for a post-2020 system of effective long term power purchase agreements for renewable energy technologies. These must include onshore and offshore wind and solar pv  (both ground mounted and on rooftops).
I would also suggest that you step up your efforts to persuade the CCC to shift their emphasis from what is obviously a failing nuclear strategy and towards other, genuinely green, energy technologies.
Best Wishes,
Dr David Toke
You can see FOE’s list of priorities for the new DECC Secretary of State Amber Rudd at http://www.foe.co.uk/blog/lights-are-amber-will-they-go-green

Reprinted with permission.

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