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Sizewell new nuclear will not solve the government’s energy problems, but will punish the poorest.

 Nick Butler: Spending £4bn on a new nuclear station at Sizewell will not
solve the government’s energy problems. Instead of sensible short-term
measures to help those facing energy poverty, the government is focusing on
a technology with a track record of failure.

In the face of surging energy
prices and the prospect of more problems as Europe turns off Russian gas
supplies, the UK government is struggling to find a coherent energy policy.
The latest move, a £4bn investment in the proposed new nuclear station at
Sizewell, is both a mistake and an irrelevance.

Private investors who are
being asked to stump up the majority of the £20bn total cost should
politely decline the offer. The current energy challenge—driven first by
the surging post-Covid economy around the world, and now by fears of a
fight for supplies as Europe reduces its use of Russian gas by two-thirds
by 2023—is not the fault of the British government. The UK is not
dependent on Russian supplies, which account for less than 5 per cent of
British consumption. We do, however, import half our gas, and are therefore
vulnerable to whatever happens on the world market.

The government is
responsible for the response to a crisis which will raise retail bills in
April, and again in the autumn. The burden of these sudden increases will
hit the poorest hardest, adding to cost of living pressures already
evident. The Bank of England talks of inflation of 8 per cent by the end of
the year. Many commentators think 10 per cent is more likely. The answer to
the challenge has to begin with welfare support for those who cannot cope.
A temporary removal of some of the taxes on energy supply, including VAT,
would also offer some relief.

The £2bn being given to the developers of
Sizewell would have made a material difference to those facing energy
poverty. The choice of EDF’s European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) technology is the worst from
any perspective. In the face of an energy crisis and soaring bills, the
government needs solutions which are practical and affordable.

There is no way of insulating the UK from developments in the world market. The poorest
can and should be protected but the rest of us will undoubtedly have to pay
more. What matters now is that the short-, medium- and longer-term
solutions to limit that exposure are deliverable and affordable. Sizewell
is neither. 

Prospect 30th March 2022

April 2, 2022 - Posted by | ENERGY, UK

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