Hinckley point_Oblique_Aerial_View_1.70_MFINAL_RGB_cropped

photo courtesy of EDF Energy

This week, the Government announced that the taxpayer would be subsidising the construction of a £16 billion, 3.3GW new nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset.  The deal was stuck with EDF, the French state owned utility.  In the wake of the disaster at Fukishima, with dangerous levels of radioactive Strontium entering into their water, any investment in the construction of a new nuclear facility is short-sighted, presenting a formidable threat to the economic health and potentially the physical well being of future generations.

The subsidy presents the threat of a dangerous economic legacy for us now and for future generations.  The guaranteed strike price of £92.50 per MWh lasts for 35 years, and is twice the current price of electricity in the market today.

What this means is that every taxpayer, regardless of whether one benefits from it or not, will be financing the generation of this electricity for the next 35 years.  Because of the base load nature of nuclear power, there may be times when no one is consuming this electricity yet, the taxpayer will still be paying EDF and the investor consortia for generating it.

Foreign investment could comprise more than 50% of the ownership of the plant, which means our taxpayers’ money is contributing to the wealth of foreign nations instead of being invested at home.   It’s a no brainer for the Chinese to take up to a 40% stake in the consortium, because for them it is a guaranteed investment return with very little risk.  The move creates distortions in the supplier market and sets a greedy precedent for other suppliers.

Energy subsidies EnergiewendeThis graph, prepared by the EEG to analyse the level of subsidy to be provided for Hinckley Point demostrates that even when the taxpayer subsidy for decommissioning the plant and the long term storage of the nuclear waste is excluded, the subsidy for nuclear power far exceeds any subsidies for solar PV or Wind (either on or offshore).

It doesn’t make any sense to continue to invest good money into an expensive and dangerous source of electricity.  The lion’s share of the budget for the Department of Energy and Climate Change is allocated to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to manage our legacy of radioactive nuclear waste.

The UK has the highest stockpile in the world of radioactive Plutonium buried in a temporary storage facility in Cumbria.  The cost of managing our nuclear legacy is estimated to be about £100 billion, the equivalent of the entire investment required to upgrade our electricity network.

We must reject this plan to expand the facility at Hinkley and support investment in clean, renewable energy generation and energy efficiency investment.  We must invest in a smart grid that would transform our network into a low carbon, clean energy generation, transmission and distribution network.  Please contact your MP and let them know you do not support any subsidy for nuclear power.

02 Jun 2013

Support Community Energy

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nuclear power plant and housesThe Energy Bill will receive its third reading in the House of Commons today.  Included in this bill is Retail Market Reform, creating a fairer market for the consumer by reducing the number of tariffs to four.  Except for the special switching tariffs that can be created for any number of collective switching campaigns.  Unfortunately, for the consumer, reform will not bring more value for money, because 6 energy suppliers control 99% of the market, which technically is an oligopoly.  The cost of implementing the new Retail Market Reform will be passed onto the consumer by the energy suppliers at an estimated one off cost of £2.18  and £2.52 per year per customer.

Simplifying the tariffs won’t lead to empowering consumer choice nor will it lead to sustainable, long term reductions in consumer prices.  This is confirmed by DECC and OFGEM who have conceded that prices will rise to finance new nuclear power stations. On a more positive note, long suffering Britons, the 80% of us who don’t switch suppliers and are paying old tariffs, may save around £158 per year by switching supplier.  As a whole though, temporary price differences will not release the stranglehold that the energy suppliers have on us.  OFGEM is also proposing that the White Label suppliers, like M&S Energy and Co-op Energy, adopt the same pricing as the Big Six, basically eliminating any capability of using operating efficiency and sustainability strategies to lower energy prices for good.

The Energy bill is primarily informed by the Big Six (oligopoly) and the National Grid (monopoly), seven powerful corporations owned by private shareholders, run by captains of industry that wield the most power over the politicans that set our energy future.   Energy is a necessity, it should be a national right.  However, the allure of privatisation, money to prop up State coffers, was too strong.  Liberalisation of energy markets is now paving a bleak pathway to our clean energy future.

Further solidifying their dominant position, a two pronged tour de force in underway against competition in the market at OFGEM in their Retail Market Reform. We are facing the prospect of the legislative death of micro-generation – the source of freedom for the people and our greatest source of energy security – by killing off communities energy suppliers ability to enter into the market.  It is very expensive to retain a centralised power generation system.  It is essential that we have them, for large industry and for back up power.  However, this old method of delivering energy is greatly impacting our real security, which is our right to clean land, clean air and a moderate climate.  The Energy Bill includes unproven and low value for money generation technologies, like the new EPR nuclear power stations and Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technologies.  CCS doesn’t generate any energy at all, it’s just an add-on cost to an existing generation method.  With centralised power stations, the energy supplier has complete control over our energy  costs.

The Energy Bill contains new mechanisms for financing these costly technologies, basically removing transparency by transferring the generation cost from your energy bill to your tax bill.  In an age of austerity, this means that more social benefits will be cut as the public is squeezed to finance the liability for nuclear waste storage and the cost of maintaining national security around nuclear power plant sites and the transport of nuclear waste (depleted uranium from spent fuel rods is used to develop nuclear weapons). Plus the support that will inevitably be required when construction is started on power stations using unproven technologies.

Last year DECC gave us a chance to look at our energy pathway to 2050, which was a model to help people do their own analysis of energy supply and how best to keep the lights on.  This pathway made it clear that renewables, including micro-generation, could play a vital role in ensuring that we maintain energy security.  Micro-generation are systems less than 5MW that community energy groups, like BHESCo are developing across the country

A free energy market is one that has few barriers to entry and encourages traders to compete in all aspects of their operations, from generation to distribution to customer care.  Customer care includes a level of service that prioritises the customer experience.  Smaller community energy companies can do this.  Right now an opinion has developed within OFGEM, the electricity and gas market regulator, that could snuff out small community energy companies, like BHESCo, by creating more barriers to market entry for White label suppliers.  Support BHESCo by ensuring that your MP rejects these aspects of Retail Market Reform in the Energy Bill.  We need a fair and secure energy supply, which the energy bill in its present form will not deliver.  Support BHESCo and sign up at www.bhesco.co.uk

 

Photograph: Annie Griffiths Belt/Corbis

Photograph: Annie Griffiths Belt/Corbis

Cumbria County Council has taken the pivotal decision to reject the placement of a nuclear spent fuel storage site in the Lake District, an area of outstanding national beauty and importance.  In a report[1] prepared in March 2011 by Sir David King, the storage facility would cost about £14 billion and create about 500 jobs in construction and about 300 jobs to operate.  Ed Davey, the Energy and Climate Secretary, said “there will be a substantial community benefits package, worth hundreds of millions of pounds. That is in addition to the hundreds of jobs and major investment that such a huge infrastructure project could bring.”  We congratulate the Council for their courage and sensibility in rejecting  a proposal that would only bring more hazardous waste to the region.

Sellafield is already the unfortunate repository of 6,000 tonnes of heavy metal (radioactive materials) being stored in ponds.  This storage is estimated to be viable until 2075 when this material will have to be stored again safely in some kind of newly constructed deep geological storage facility – costing billions – all financed by the taxpayer.

DECC generation table
DECC 2012

Nuclear power produced 19% of our electricity production in 2011[2].  This was the total portion of generation, although 67% of that electricity is lost in transmission and distribution across high voltage wires that traverse the land.  The government insists that nuclear power is an important part of our energy mix.  One must question the logic of building new nuclear power plants when there are so many alternatives available that do not poison our environment and cost the taxpayer absurd sums of money to maintain.  The nuclear power legacy will cost the taxpayer billions to ensure that the toxic waste is safely decommissioned and stored.  None of this money contributed to the generation of electricity. The renewables contribution increased 3% in one year.  This is attributed to the success of the Feed in Tariff for Solar electricity.

At Brighton & Hove Energy Services, we are dedicated to providing the people with low cost energy now and in the future.  By joining BHESCo, you can participate in the creation of a new energy future, one that is powered by the sun, wind and biomass.   We are starting now, so that you can rest assured that as nuclear power plants are shut down, the lights will stay on and you will stay warm in winter without paying a fortune for the privilege.  Go on, join us.


[1] A low carbon nuclear future: Economic assessment of nuclear materials and spent nuclear fuel management in the UK, Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford, March 2011

[2] Digest of United Kingdom energy Statistics 2012 – Department of Energy and Climate Change

06 Dec 2012

Autumn Blues

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AnnasRoad-150x150The Chancellor announced his plans to create growth yesterday promoting the Dash for Gas despite the fact that the UK Geological survey estimates that our technically recoverable reserves range between 150 billion cubic metres (bcm) and 570 bcm.  According to BP’s review of the World 2012, this reserve is the equivalent to 2-7 years of UK gas demand in 2011.  Insufficient to resolve our long term energy needs, or to fuel the lifetime of the 30 gas powered plants that Mr. Osborne proposes to build.

Frack off presents an interesting assessment of why its so important to provide a tax subsidy for shale gas drilling, or “Fracking” – an extreme method of blasting for gas through shale rock.  Although we haven’t seen the details of our Chancellor’s growth plan, we feel confident that any additional monies to promote growth in our transmission infrastructure will be missing.  These plans are all about subsidising certain types of generation capacity.

Our government is borrowing more to finance their austerity plans. The budget includes another £5 billion of mandatory cuts.  The New Economic Foundation has announced their upcoming release of an economic strategy that “tackles unemployment, delivers good jobs and a sustainable future”.  According to the Public and Commercial Services Union, these 13,500 civil servant job cuts are additional to the 50,000 jobs due to be cut in the next two years and the 63,000 already cut.  You may be relieved to know that budgets in nuclear decommissioning will be spared because we have no choice.  We have to invest to ensure that the stockpile of radiocative waste from old nuclear power plants is treated properly.  No need to fret about our future, the new nuclear power plants that are in the pipeline along with the 30 gas fired plants, should ensure that the lights don’t go out.

 If this blog is depressing you, consider the alternative, where we save 30% of our energy use by retrofitting thermally inefficient properties and replacing inefficient kit.  We can build energy generation from local, renewable energy resources in a way that creates jobs and economic growth.  Where we engage the newest technologies in wind, biomass, biofuels, tidal, wave and hydrogen to generate sufficient local generation to meet our needs. And best of all, we, the community, own it.

If this is how you like to think, think community energy suppliers, join BHESCo.


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