It’s one thing to campaign against nuclear power, but the thought of cheaper energy bills could have suppressed many people’s fears on safety and environmental concerns. However, recent reports that the French owned company EDF could raise energy bills has caused a huge backlash against the planned Hinkley Point C reactor.
Independent research has suggested that UK energy bills could be set at double the wholesale price of energy today, and even set at these higher prices for the next 35 years, with critics stating that the government has agreed too high a price, £92.50 per megawatt hour – for all electricity produced at the plant.
The plant is due to come on line from 2023 and yesterday David Cameron spoke to workers at the Hinkley Point B in Somerset, and stated that the deal for a £16billion Hinkley Point C reactor was “a very big day for our country”.
Not everyone agrees with this statement, as Mark Todd, director of independent price comparison service energyhelpline, said: “What it does show is that the Government believes electricity costs are set for dramatic increases over the next 10 years. This would take a typical electricity bill from £559, as it is today, to £1,108 a year.”
The government have been in negotiations with the French owned energy EDF for over a year now, and some critics are predicting that the strike price agreed of £92.50 per megawatt hour has been set so high due to Cameron’s belief that energy prices will continue to rise throughout the next couple of decades.
The news of the proposed nuclear plant is also an indication of how Cameron wants to move away from reliance on fossil fuels,and onto low carbon power.
The nuclear plant has caused controversy, not just because it is French owned, but because it is not economical. Greenpeace UK’s John Sauven said: “Hinkley C fails every test – economic, consumer, and environmental. It will lock a generation into higher energy bills via a strike price that’s nearly double the current price of electricity, and it will distort energy policy by displacing newer, cleaner, technologies that are dropping in price.”
However, the Energy Secretary Ed Davey surprised many people when he was quite specific about the exact amount that could be saved, when the new plant comes into operation. He said that bills would be typically £77 lower by 2030, but energy experts have dismissed this figure, stating that it is virtually impossible to predict future energy prices.
Using the old scare tactics of ‘not being able to keep the lights on’, Ed Davey warned that it was essential for the UK to accept the use of nuclear power.
But there are angry debates concerning whether the government has effectively subsided this new reactor, as CND general secretary Kate Hudson said: “The 2010 coalition agreement explicitly states that there will be ‘no public subsidy’ for new nuclear power and yet the deal announced today commits taxpayers’ money to bailing out an industry which has proven time and time again that it does not offer value for money.”
And Dr Paul Dorfman, of the Energy Institute at University College London, agreed, stating that the Government had practically given a subsidy of up to £1billion a year, payable by UK taxpayers and consumers to the French and Chinese companies who are building the plant.
When the plant is operating at full capacity, it will be able to deliver 7% of the UK’s energy requirements and create 25,000 new jobs in the South West.