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Electricity bills could rise to encourage nuclear power station investment

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: May 23, 2012

EDF revealed yesterday that it not only wants to build a new nuclear reactor at Hinkley Point in Somerset but also wants to extend the life of the reactor it currently operates there

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The Government will raise electricity bills in an attempt to attract investors to build another nuclear power station in the West Country.

Ministers want to artificially hike up bills to make it more attractive for companies to invest in building a new power station in Oldbury, in South Gloucestershire.

The news comes as energy giant EDF revealed yesterday that it not only wants to build a new nuclear reactor at Hinkley Point in Somerset but also wants to extend the life of the reactor it currently operates there. Higher electricity bills would almost certainly guarantee a bigger income for EDF as well.

Ministers defended the move last night, saying they must increase bills now and fix them at a higher rate, otherwise energy companies would eventually raise them to an even higher level on the open market.

They also said the move was necessary to attract the £110 billion in investment needed to keep the lights on over the next two decades. But in the short-term families will end up paying for the changes – outlined in the draft Energy Bill published yesterday – even though the Government insists it will mean lower bills in the long-run.

The Western Daily Press reported in March how German companies RWE and E.ON scrapped their massive investment plans for Oldbury, in Gloucestershire, and Wylfa in North Wales, under the Horizon project.

That started a scramble to find a new consortium to bail out the development, with investors from China, Russia and Japan all said to be in the frame.

Yesterday, Energy Secretary Ed Davey outlined a new system to stabilise returns for low-carbon generators at a fixed level known as a strike price. He said the aim was to encourage a balanced portfolio of renewables, new nuclear and carbon capture and storage.

He argued: “If we don’t encourage investment in our energy infrastructure, we could see the lights going out, consumers hit by spiralling energy prices and dangerous climate change.”

Mr Davey said with or without reforms, household electricity bills were likely to increase over time, mainly because of rising fossil fuel prices.

“As a result of these reforms, electricity bills are estimated to be, on average, four per cent lower over the next two decades than they would otherwise have been.”

The Government says average household bills would be £200 higher by 2030 if they did nothing, and under the reforms the increase would be halved to £100. The cash should also improve the chances of other low-carbon projects – including the controversial £34 billion Severn Barrage – although critics accused the Government of favouring nuclear.

But Mr Davey stressed the coalition policy is not a public subsidy for new nuclear: “I have made it clear there is no blank cheque for nuclear.”

One of the reasons the German firms dropped out of Horizon was the long gap between the massive upfront investment needed, and starting to see any return on it.

Yesterday’s reforms are intended to reassure investors they will get their money back, and more, and are not subject to future changes in the market.

However, Nick Molho of WWF-UK urged the Government to provide specific financial support for the renewables sector.

“As it is, it looks like the process has been rigged for nuclear,” he said.

And the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament said it was a missed opportunity to focus on renewable energy, with the Government forcing taxpayers to fork out on higher bills for subsidies for nuclear power.

Shadow Energy Minister Tom Greatrex said the Bill did nothing to simplify tariffs or stop vulnerable customers being ripped off. “Unless the Government gets to grips with spiralling energy bills, people will think that this Government is completely out of touch with families and pensioners struggling to make ends meet.”

GMB, the union for energy workers, said since the state had to step in to guarantee prices for return on investment, the Government should go the whole hog and deliver nuclear itself. It said the Government should re-task the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and re-name it the Nuclear Development Authority to take over the Horizon project and bring on stream Oldbury and other nuclear power stations.

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  • Charlespk  |  August 18 2012, 9:26AM

    Life is dangerous. . It always has been. . It always will be. Billions will have to die or the planet will not survive another 1000 years. Think about it.

  • EarlBH  |  August 18 2012, 7:52AM

    Safe nuclear?? No such thing: http://tinyurl.com/7k9rwv3

  • Charlespk  |  May 26 2012, 7:54PM

    Solar Power Portal 15th May 2012. Speech by Charles Hendry to Nuclear Institute, North West Branch: "It is important that we provide these consortia, and other investors, with the certainty they need to invest in new nuclear. This Government remains committed to ensuring that the conditions are right for investment. We have completed all of our facilitative actions and set out a package of reforms to transform the power sector so that we can achieve secure, low carbon and affordable energy. We expect to legislate in the next session to provide the long-term certainty needed by investors in all forms of low carbon. We also intend to publish an overarching overview of electricity market reform and a draft operational framework for Contracts for Difference soon, with the aim of giving investors increasing confidence about the structure of the policy framework."

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  • Charlespk  |  May 26 2012, 7:31PM

    (part of)Charles Hendry's speech to the Fuellers lecture 25th anniversary. The future of UK energy. Nuclear, renewables and CCS. Quote:- "Our energy security demand a mix of low carbon technologies, new nuclear without public subsidy, renewables and carbon capture storage (CCS). We are committed to allowing the construction of new nuclear power stations. This will be without public subsidy and I am encouraged by how many companies have indicated they are willing to invest on that basis - so far energy companies have announced their plans to build up to 16GW of new nuclear capacity in the UK by 2025. New nuclear power stations will attract billions of pounds of investment into the UK and boost British companies in the supply chain. Up to 30,000 new jobs could be created across the country. A key part of my responsibility is to remove potential barriers to investment. There is no doubt that the UK is one of the most exciting opportunities in the world for new nuclear." Please note: Charlespk, Charles Henry is not Charles Hendry.

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  • Charlespk  |  May 26 2012, 9:35AM

    Beware of the Landscape Vandals!! http://tinyurl.com/csjoshm (open in a new window)

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  • siarad2  |  May 25 2012, 12:16PM

    First it was tax our bills for Money Farms, oops Wind Farms now it's for nuclear. Yippee windy today producing 1.3GW of power out of 6.6GW we're told they produce, just one tenth of each current coal & other sources.

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  • Charlespk  |  May 25 2012, 11:56AM

    Last post was the wrong story. My apologies. Though the sentiment is still correct

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  • Charlespk  |  May 25 2012, 11:45AM

    Ironic yes; but had they not wasted all the 'good years' subsidising 'Wind' (it's not blowing again today), to meet artificial targets, we'd already have been half-way there with our nuclear needs. I say again! . Thank you all you imaginary 'Greens'!! (for nothing)

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  • siarad2  |  May 23 2012, 9:40PM

    Bbbbut we all use only 20% of the light energy now by government force & yet they won't stay on! Give me some money to fit a gas boiler that'll generate, probably all in winter, of my electricity & export some from it's normally wasted exhaust gas.

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  • nikkinomad  |  May 23 2012, 4:40PM

    And all of this when just last week, whilst giving evidence to a select committee on energy & climate change inquiry into new nuclear, Charles Hendry claimed that the coalition energy policy is robust enough that we could make do without nuclear. Why the hell would people be happy for these people to heap more money on our energy bills unneccessariy and create an insoluble problem for future generations when the only reason seems to be to ensure profits for EDF now....