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REA criticises Hinkley nuclear agreement

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The Renewable Energy Association (REA) has spoken out against the government’s announcement that the EDF Group is to build the UK’s first new power station for a generation.

Hinkley Point C is due to provide electricity to 6 million homes following its completion in 2023 after the government agreed to pay a strike price of £89.50-£92.50/MW.

A consortium led by EDF will invest c.£16bn to build the site, will meet all decommissioning costs whilst the considerable costs of waste management will be shared.

REA chief executive Dr Nina Skorupska criticised the government’s support for a new fleet of nuclear power stations as Hinkley and others will take at least 10 years to come online. Utilising renewable energy would command a much lower turnaround time, thus meeting the UK’s projected shortfall in generating capacity much sooner.

“Today’s announcement is a major development for the UK energy mix, but it does nothing to address the looming capacity crunch warned of by the Royal Academy of Engineers last week,” she said.

“Hinkley will still be a construction site when old coal and nuclear capacity is shut down. In contrast, the government could start plugging the generation gap straight away with another reliable low carbon solution: biomass. Biomass plants take only three or four years to build and provide flexible power when we need it. It is not too late to provide support for biomass in the EMR package, and we urge the government to do so.

“In terms of the contracts, government must explain why it is subsidising nuclear for 35 years compared to 15 years for renewables. This is not a level playing field. The infographic pitting nuclear against solar and wind is also unhelpful. As Ed Davey stressed today, it is not an either/or choice – we need a diverse energy mix.”

The Solar Trade Association (STA) is also critical of the government for not backing renewable energy over nuclear power as it estimates the cost of solar energy to be significantly lower than the strike price agreed by the government with EDF for the power produced at Hinkley.

Whereas nuclear is set to receive £92.50 per MW for 35 years, the STA anticipates solar is set to require around £86/MWh for 15 years in the year 2019/20 (based on 2012 prices). If, like nuclear, solar’s support was spread over 35 years instead of 15, then the strike price would be even lower.

STA ceo Paul Barwell said: “Renewables must be treated on a level playing field. Solar power has already achieved unprecedented cost reductions over the last three years and is projected to continue to reduce costs in real terms over the next decade. Solar power risks being unfairly constrained in the UK even when it will be cheaper than other low carbon technologies.”