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Nuclear power set to kill off renewable energy
The government's proposed Energy Bill is set to offer a blank cheque to the nuclear sector to build more power stations - a move which renewable energy firms fear will kill off future investment in green energy
This autumn the Energy Secretary, Ed Davey, is set to introduce a new Energy Bill. One of the key facets of this bill is the introduction of a new energy framework based on ‘contracts for difference’. This could be the death-knell for the renewable energy sector.
In essence, this means that the government will offer ‘low carbon’ energy companies (including the nuclear power sector) long-term energy contracts. These contracts will guarantee that a pre-agreed price is paid by the State for the energy these companies produce.
A big, fat cheque to EDF
This is meant to provide the long-term security that investors are looking for to put their money into a low carbon future. In reality, it’s a big, fat, blank cheque to companies like EDF who want to build more nuclear power stations but who currently can't persuade investors that it's a good idea.
Many critics fear that if these new nuclear subsidies are given the green light, nuclear power will quickly become the main source of 'low carbon' energy in the UK. This is what Ecotricity’s website has to say about it:
‘Green energy company Ecotricity has told MPs on the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee that draft Energy Bill proposals are currently a choice between nuclear power and renewables.
‘Giving evidence at the Houses of Parliament, Ecotricity Director Asif Rehmanwala said plans to entice big energy companies to invest in building new nuclear plants by artificially raising the price paid for electricity (known as ‘Contracts for Difference’ or CfDs) – could in contrast put small suppliers out of business, dissuade new entries into the market and impact the building of new green energy.’
Davey denies that this move is a thinly-veiled subsidy for the nuclear sector. But clearly, it’s a double-whammy for the British public. We’ll be the ones paying for this new deal through our taxes and through rising energy bills….while our kids will be left with a nightmare legacy of high-level radioactive waste.
The good news…..
The good news is that the tide is turning against 'new nuclear' power. In March, around 1,000 people blockaded the entrance to Hinkley Point nuclear power station in Somerset to show their opposition to EDF Energy's plans to build a giant new mega-reactor on the site.
It was the largest 24-hour blockade of a power station for several decades and protesters were joined by environmentalist Jonathon Porritt, Green MP Caroline Lucas and CND’s general secretary Kate Hudson.
In the meantime, the spiralling constructions costs of the first new EPR reactors in France and Finland are causing market jitters around the world. EDF, a French state-owned company, is now so worried about its investment in Hinkley and Sizewell that it’s looking to for new partners to spread the risk.
Meanwhile, in Japan, tens of thousands of people are taking to the streets every Friday evening to call for an end to nuclear power. (As I write, the protests are attracting between 75,000 and 170,000 depending on whether you believe the police or protest organisers). Allied demonstrations are also being held in other countries including the UK, Germany and France.
But there is no room for complacency. Several Chinese energy companies are now coming out of the woodwork to look into the viability of building new nuclear power stations at Wylfa in Anglesey and Oldbury in Gloucestershire. In the meantime, the government still seems hell-bent on getting new nuclear power stations built – whatever the social and environmental cost.
The next four months..
Nancy Birch, a spokesperson for the Stop New Nuclear Alliance, says the UK is entering a critical period. "We need to make as much noise as we can to wake the public up to the environmental and political insanity of making nuclear power the dominant form of energy in the UK."
She continues, "There is a future without nuclear. Germany has set out a nuclear-free roadmap that is safe, affordable and designed to enable the country to reach its commitment of 80% carbon reduction by 2050. The burning question is, if Germany can do it, why can’t we.'
What you can do
The Stop New Nuclear Alliance is holding a weekend protest camp folllowed by a mass trespass of the Hinkley C site in Somerset from 5-9th Ocotber. A mass lobby of Parliament in the Autumn is also being planned by an allied campaign prior to the Energy Bill debate.
Nancy Birch continued: "We are encouraging people to come along and be arrested at the mass trespass to show how strongly the UK is opposed to making nuclear the dominant form of energy. We want a future, not a disaster."
"It’s impossible to predict how EDF or the police are going to respond to the trespass. But we will be providing a breakdown of the options at the camp over the weekend and we will ensure that everyone has a role to play – whether or not they are prepared to be arrested. We’ll also be sending out a legal briefing nearer the time via our website."
Further details of the protest weekend can be found at: http://stopnewnuclear.org.uk