“Households could foot the bill for new nuclear plants”

Ministers are set to unveil a controversial new method for funding nuclear power stations and carbon-capture projects — one that heaps cost and risk onto consumers.

The business department is expected to publish a consultation this week on regulated asset base (RAB) financing in the nuclear sector. It is a method used by water companies and Heathrow airport, allowing them to begin charging households years before a project has been built.

French giant EDF wants to pioneer the financing model at its proposed Sizewell C power plant in Suffolk. EDF is building the £20bn Hinkley Point C station in Somerset, but argues that it cannot afford to build any future plants in the UK without a new financing approach.

Ministers are wrestling with how to meet the UK’s power needs, with ageing coal and nuclear stations set to close. However, government plans to publish a full energy white paper this week seem to have been dashed by concerns over how to pay for the programme, and the change in Tory leader. The white paper is now expected in the autumn.”

Source: Sunday Times (pay wall)

“Heatwaves test limits of nuclear power”

Not true, as the article implies, that because Hinkley C uses seawater, which is cooler, it is not at risk. There are many examples of coastal nuclear reactors having to close down because seawater has become too warm in heatwaves – including in places such as Finland, Sweden and Germany. Here’s the evidence:

https://www.npr.org/2018/07/27/632988813/hot-weather-spells-trouble-for-nuclear-power-plants?t=1562937536321

“Enthusiasts describe nuclear power as an essential tool to combat the climate emergency because, unlike renewables, it is a reliable source of base load power.

This is a spurious claim because power stations are uniquely vulnerable to global heating. They need large quantities of cooling water to function, however the increasing number of heatwaves are threatening this supply.

The French energy company EDF is curbing its output from four reactors in Bugey, on the Rhône River near the Swiss border, because the water is too warm and the flow is low.

Some reactors in the US are also frequently affected. This matters in both countries because the increasing use of air conditioning means electricity demand is high during summer heatwaves and intermittent nuclear power is not much help.

This does not affect nuclear power stations in the UK because they draw their water supplies from the sea, which stays relatively cool. However, it may affect plans to build small reactors on a lake in Trawsfynydd, Wales. And it may also reduce some of the UK’s power supplies during the summer.

As heatwaves intensify, the flow of electricity from French reactors through the growing number of cross-Channel interconnector cables cannot be relied on.”

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jul/08/weatherwatch-heatwaves-nuclear-power?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

Why is the south-west (particularly our LEPs and press) backwards at coming forward on our behalf?

We are reading an awful lot in the press about how the north of England is being discriminated against compared to the south-east and London.

For example:

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/jun/10/northern-newspapers-demand-revolution-in-regions-treatment?

Why does our local press and LEPs in the West Country appear to lack the ambition and drive to do something equally bold for our region?

Aren’t we in danger of being left behind (again). Owl thought LEPs were supposed to be leading us somewhere …not just spending our money on vanity projects.

“Nuclear: Energy bills ‘used to subsidise submarines’ “

Not just energy bills in Devon … a large tranche of our money is being used to subsidise Hinkley C via our Local Enterprise Partnership.

“Energy bills in the UK are inflated partly because households are subsidising nuclear submarines, MPs have been told.

Experts think one government motive for backing civilian nuclear power is to cross-subsidise the defence industry.

They say nuclear power is so expensive that it should be scrapped in favour of much cheaper renewable energy.

Others argue that nuclear still plays a key role in keeping on the lights, so the military aspect is not significant.

But in evidence to MPs on the Business Select Committee, researchers from the University of Sussex said the government should be frank about the inter-dependence of the civilian nuclear programme and the nuclear defence industry.

Supply chain

Prof Andy Stirling from Sussex argues that one reason the government is willing to burden householders with the expense of nuclear energy is because it underpins the supply chain and skills base for firms such as Rolls Royce and Babcock that work on nuclear submarines.

He said: “It is clear that the costs of maintaining nuclear submarine capabilities are insupportable without parallel consumer-funded civil nuclear infrastructures. …

The government has declined to comment on the research, but a committee source told BBC News the researchers’ evidence appeared persuasive and well-researched.

The committee is expected to release the evidence in coming days as it prepares to discuss whether the UK really needs nuclear power for energy security.

The debate has taken on greater significance as the true costs of nuclear power have been revealed.

It was once forecast that nuclear energy would be too cheap to meter. But it’s clear now that bill-payers will give price support to the Hinkley Point C nuclear station at a cost of £92.50 per megawatt hour, compared with £55 for offshore wind.

Ministers expect that, before long, wind energy will operate without support.

Prof Stirling says the issue of nuclear inter-dependence is addressed openly in the US.

In 2017, the former US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz (a nuclear scientist) said: “A strong domestic (nuclear) supply chain is needed to provide for Navy requirements. This has a very strong overlap with commercial nuclear energy.”

Prof Stirling told BBC News: “We need this sort of transparency in the UK.”

Catch-22

But the government faces a Catch-22 situation on this issue.

If it continues to decline to admit the inter-dependence of civil and military nuclear, it will stand accused of hiding a self-evident truth.
But if it accepts that decisions on nuclear power are influenced with half an eye on manufacturing jobs and nuclear deterrent, it will face resistance from consumer groups unwilling to cross-subsidise submarines.

The MPs’ hearing is timely, as the government will shortly publish an energy white paper outlining how the UK will supply electricity in a zero carbon economy.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-48509942

What is our Local Enterprise Partnership up to?

Well, if you strip out the projects that are actually “stand alone” and directly-funded by its members from its latest newsletter – not very much at all – and all funded by money that used to go directly to local authorities (and not a murmer about their biggest project – Hinkley C nuclear power station:

https://mailchi.mp/heartofswlep/hotsw-lep-march-newsletter?e=9367babecc

“One pensioner in five forced to cut back on heating this winter to afford bills”

Owl says: Still, no worries, we have that lovely nuclear energy from Hinkley C to look forward to. Oh wait, the Government set the price it will pay to its Chinese and French owners stratospherically high!

“More than one over-65s in five was forced to cut back on their energy use this winter just so they would be able to afford their bills.

Figures from comparethemarket.com also show almost half (48%) of the age group are worried about their the cost of their energy, while one in eight (12%) don’t think they can afford any increase.

One over-65 in 12 said their health suffered because they limit the amount of heating they use while one in 14 said they were considering downsizing their home to reduce their energy bills.

“Nobody should be forced to sacrifice their health in order to heat their home, and especially not some of the most vulnerable members of our society, the elderly,” said Comparethemarket head of energy Peter Earl.

“Cold weather and the resulting financial and health problems are a real issue for older people, who have to worry about cold temperatures every year.

“It should be an absolute priority to ensure that they are able to afford their energy costs and appropriately heat their home.” …”

https://www.mirror.co.uk/money/pensions-heating-energy-bill-afford-14096207

“MPs are set to review the government’s plans for Britain’s energy sector after a string of major projects were abandoned by international companies”

Owl says: Such a shame that our Local Enterprise Partnership – dominated by people with a vested interest in the nuclear industry – has put all our growth and regional investment eggs in the Hinkley C basket!

MPs are set to review the government’s plans for Britain’s energy sector after a string of major projects were abandoned by international companies.

The Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy Committee said it would look into the government’s plans to see if they are fit for purpose.

It will examine if the country needs a new approach to speed up investment into low-carbon, low-cost energy and secure supplies in the long term.

The decision comes after Japanese firms Hitachi and Toshiba pulled out of the Wylfa and Moorside nuclear projects, dealing a serious blow to the government’s plans.

The committee also said it will investigate concerns over foreign investors in British nuclear. This comes amid worries about Chinese involvement in major projects.

Committee chair Rachel Reeves said: “In the wake of investment decisions over nuclear plants at sites such as Moorside and Wylfa, a giant hole has developed in UK energy policy. With coal due to go off-line, and the prospects for nuclear looking unclear, the government needs to set out how it will create the right framework to encourage the investment needed to plug the gap.

“In this inquiry, we want to examine the government’s approach to creating the right conditions for investment to deliver the secure energy capacity to meet the nation’s needs. A bigger shift in our energy infrastructure to a low cost, low carbon energy system is necessary.

“As a committee, we will want to consider what more the government needs to do to attract greater investment into financing future energy capacity, including renewables.”

http://www.cityam.com/273977/mps-launch-inquiry-into-government-energy-policy-after