Back in 2007, EDF Energy predicted we'd be cooking our 2017 Christmas turkeys with power generated from Britain's first nuclear power station to be built in 20 years.
Ten years later, Hinkley Point C (HPC) is little more than a hole in the ground. EDF Energy hopes it will generate its first electricity output by 2025, but admits another 15-month delay is likely. Even former Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary Sir Edward Davey, who signed off on the project, doubts it will ever get built.
In 2010, the cost of two reactors at HPC was estimated at ?9 billion - already double the estimates given when Labour first greenlit a new nuclear programme. By summer 2017, costs had escalated to a whopping ?19.6 billion, with another increase of ?700 million likely. The National Audit Office (NAO) warned the deal 'locked consumers into a risky and expensive project with uncertain strategic and economic benefits.'
Last September, the Stop Hinkley Campaign published a report by Emeritus Professor Steve Thomas of the University of Greenwich, which said it's not too late to cancel the ill-fated scheme. The start of construction, when the first structural concrete is poured, is still at least two years away. Preliminary works are conspicuous but relatively cheap. Cancellation costs could be around ?2 billion, but this is dwarfed by the cost of going ahead. The extra cost to consumers over the 35 years could be as much as ?50 billion.
Our response (with the Nuclear Free Local Authorities, the NFLA) to the government's Clean Growth Strategy details a consumption revolution over the past decade prompted by vastly improved electricity efficiency in areas like lighting, where household consumption has dropped by over 30 per cent since 2007- a trend which is set to continue.
When the government first endorsed HPC, it expected an increase in electricity consumption of 15 per cent by now, whereas, in practice, we are consuming 15 per cent less. In other words, it made a 30 per cent error. This is despite a 13 per cent increase in GDP.
Our response, along with Professor Dieter Helm's cost of energy review, shows how the cost of renewables is declining rapidly, and there are lots of ways of dealing with intermittency issues. The best way to keep electricity costs as low as possible, while reducing carbon emissions and providing secure electricity supplies, is to scrap the new nuclear programme.
Our response notes:
- Offshore wind costs are already approaching half the cost of nuclear power
- Removing the current block on onshore wind could save consumers around ?1 billion
- Solar power will be the cheapest source of energy (not just electricity) by 2030 or 2040
- Renewables could soon be producing enough electricity to power the grid from April to October. How will ministers explain to consumers why they are paying for expensive nuclear electricity when cheap renewables are being turned off?
- The UK has the technology to match green power supply and demand at affordable cost without fossil fuels - by deploying the 'smart grid', using 'green gas' made from the digestion of organic material, such as food waste, and raising energy efficiency.
Several financial institutions have predicted that large centralised power stations will be obsolete within 10 to 20 years because they are too big and inflexible, and are 'not relevant' for future electricity. Many types of renewables are already cheaper, more flexible and much quicker to build. It is time to cancel Hinkley now, before consumers are saddled with a bill for ?50 billion, not to mention the nuclear waste we still don't know what to do with.