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Ever cheaper wind energy a big threat to UK’s nuclear white elephants

Times 21st Sept 2019, Alistair Osborne: Who wouldn’t prefer clean energy from Dogger than, say, Hinkley Point C: the £20 billion nuclear disaster in leafy Somerset?

The latest round of offshore wind contracts is quite a moment. For the first time, it looks like being subsidy-free. Companies have agreed to build 5.5 gigawatts of new capacity, enough to power almost seven million homes, for a guaranteed price of as little as £39.65 per megawatt hour – in 2012 prices. Compare that to the price for when the turbines start whirring in 2023-24, also in 2012 money: £48.13/MWh. In short, clean energy without any extra cost to the consumer.

In just five years, wind has blown the competition away. It was only in 2014 that Dong Energy, now Orsted, signed up to build the 1,200MW Hornsea 1 project at a strike price of £140/MWh.
By September 2017, the guaranteed price for the 1,386MW Hornsea 2 was down to £57.50. And now it’s 30 per cent cheaper again: a dizzying drop that drives home two things.

First, that Britain, blessed with a nice bit of breeze, leads the world in offshore wind: by next year it’ll have 10GW of installed capacity. Second, that the more you build, the cheaper it gets.

If only the same thing could be said for nuclear power. The strike price for Hinkley Point, in the same 2012 money, is a rapacious £92.50/MWh: a socking bribe to get France’s EDF and its Chinese partner to build the thing. It’s set to rip off consumers for 35 years. Naturally, it’s at least eight years late: now shooting for operations in 2025, not 2017. Its French prototype in Flamanville, where building costs have more than trebled to €10.9 billion, is at least ten years late. Oh, and its welding’s dodgy, too.

And nuclear’s not even green: it comes with a vast clean-up bill. True, it brings baseload energy that wind can’t yet match. But storage technology is advancing all the time.

So why’s the government persisting with last century tech that comes at a radioactive price? Yes, offshorewind might endanger a seabird that’s forgotten its specs. But, luckily, it’s a bigger threat to another species: nuclear white elephants.

September 22, 2019 - Posted by | renewable, UK

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