The debate about Hinkley is a distraction

Simon Bullock

02 August 2016

Nuclear power is not the answer. Renewables, energy saving, and energy storage are a much better deal for bill-payers as well as tax-payers, and renewables offer more scope to provide employment.

Renewable power has grown rapidly in the past 5 years, and as wind and solar costs continue to fall we should be swiftly getting on with generating masses of home-grown renewable electricity.

Compare that with this reality: British electricity users will pay £81 billion for Hinkley Point C electricity in its first 35 years.

In the early 1990s Margaret Thatcher cancelled the nuclear build programmes because the economics couldn’t be made to work. Has anything changed? The cost of construction for Hinkley has gone from £5.6 billion in 2008, to £24.5 billion now. Wouldn’t we be better off using that money to give an energy efficiency upgrade to millions of homes? And perhaps what really worries people more than the financial cost of the project is the radioactive waste that will need looking after for thousands of years.

Hinkley Point C will not be owned by the UK; instead, we'll be gifting it to the Chinese and French states. If that’s not enough, consider these 3 points:

  • In Finland the same design nuclear power station is still not working, and it’s 9 years late while costs have tripled
  • It will lock British taxpayers into high-cost electricity for 60 years, but wind and solar are already cheaper and their costs are still falling; it will be a decade before Hinkley will power any kettles
  • There’s no need for it – thanks to a leap forward in energy saving, projections for the electricity demand we will need in 2025 have fallen by 77 terawatt hours – that’s three times what Hinkley would produce

In the past 5 years there has been a global energy revolution: the costs of renewable energy have reduced, and there have been huge strides in the fields of energy storage and smart grids. These trends will continue, as the National Infrastructure Commission’s Smart Power report points out.

Theresa May has rightly delayed making a decision, so this is the opportunity to pause, change tack, and prevent bill-payers being saddled with unnecessary cost well into the future.

The government is starting to see which way the wind is blowing, so it is policy folly to lock the UK into long-term, polluting, expensive nuclear projects.

Renewables and energy storage are the future. The nuclear industry cannot stop the inevitable. But the government can, and should, stop Hinkley.

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Community energy project, Brixton, London