Hinkley Point nuclear reactions: Thumbs-up from Scottish Tories, but UK renewable energy chief laments lost opportunity for lower-cost solar and biomass

hinkley-point-c-construction-spring-2016The Scottish Conservatives and business organisations were among those groups which welcomed the decision by the UK government to go-ahead with the new Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant.

But the Renewable Energy Association said alternative technologies – such as solar, wind and biomass – could have been supported at lower cost to the public purse.

A spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives said: “We have long supported the need for a mixed energy strategy – including next generation nuclear power. 

“It is right, however, that the new Prime Minister took time to examine this deal in detail. As a result, we now have a significant package of conditions attached to enhance security and ensure Hinkley cannot change hands without government agreement.

“The imposition of a new legal framework for future foreign investment in critical infrastructure in Britain should be welcomed.

“In addition to securing future energy supply and security for the UK, this news will also safeguard many thousands of jobs.”

Tony Ward, Head of Power & Utilities at EY, commented: “This is a hugely welcome validation of the work that previous Governments, developers and the UK’s wider supply chain and workforce have put in to ensure the robustness and deliverability of the proposals for new nuclear build.

“Big, tough decisions that benefit future generations and balance multiple needs are, and should be, hard to make – but that is precisely the role of Government.  It is absolutely right and proper that the Government has taken a final opportunity to validate the deal arrangements, security and governance structures.  After ten years of preparation and deliberation, it is now time to deliver.

“While technologies such as solar, wind and batteries will also be hugely important in delivering the UK’s future energy mix, new nuclear, starting with Hinkley Point, has a crucial role to play in displacing our reliance on fossil fuels. We are moving to a more balanced and diverse mix of zero-carbon power generation – a mix that will be capable of delivering reliable and robust baseload power.

“Hinkley Point is a transformational infrastructure investment that will bring long-term employment for a highly-skilled workforce, stimulus for the UK’s industrial supply chain and positive social and economic benefits for the South West region.”

hinkley-info-graphicFor the CBI, Josh Hardie, Deputy Director-General, said: “The final green light for Hinkley Point is good news for the UK’s energy future as well as supporting jobs and growth across the country.

“New nuclear energy will play an important role in supporting a diverse, low-carbon and secure energy supply, so it’s now time to push on with this key project.”

However, the Renewable Energy Association said that the income guaranteed for Hinkley’s output – at £92.50 MW/hr should have been used to support development of renewable technologies. 

The SNP called on the UK Government to rethink the £18 billion development of Hinkley Point C nuclear power station, describing the decision as ‘reckless’ and an ‘unjustifiable extravagance.’

Callum McCaig, MP, the party’s Energy spokesman said: “We know Hinkley is not essential for the UK to meet its energy and environmental targets- as set out by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit-  yet it will leave the next generation with an unprecedented economic and environmental burden.

Dr. Nina Skorupska CBE, Chief Executive of the Renewable Energy Association, said: “Renewables such as solar, onshore wind and biomass are already cheaper than nuclear, are quicker to deploy, and have none of the construction or economic risk.

“From the time Hinkley Point C was proposed to now we’ve seen extraordinary advancements in technology, falling costs, and high deployment rates. Since the project’s initial consultation in 2008 the UK has gone from producing less than 6% of its electricity from renewables to over 25% in the first quarter of 2016.

“Our analysis shows that for nearly every renewable technology the equivalent amount of capacity could be procured at much lower cost using renewables.

“While we welcome a diverse low-carbon energy mix, we urge the government to consider the costs and support other industries in which the UK could be a global leader, such as energy storage.

“New REA analysis shows that for the equivalent anticipated annual power output of Hinkley Point C, over 23 GW of solar PV capacity could be installed at less than half the National Audit Office (NAO)’s projected costs of Hinkley Point C to the public. (Lifetime costs for the Hinkley Point C project are anticipated to reach £29.7 billion).

“The conversion of old coal power stations to biomass is also a more cost effective option. With a lower a strike price and shorter contract period (less than 15 years compared to 35 years), baseload capacity could be available for less than half the cost to the public.

“Biomass also provides flexible, baseload power and makes pragmatic use of existing coal power stations, all of which are anticipated to close in the UK by 2025 due to government policy.”

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