There is little doubt that we need more electricity generating capacity – and the sooner the better. So the government’s determination to expand capacity is welcome.
But Hinkley Point is flawed. Putting aside security fears over Chinese finance behind the proposed EDF nuclear power plant, Hinkley is absurdly costly and its technology unproven. It is so expensive that the government could only persuade EDF to build it by agreeing a price of £92.50 per megawatt hour of electricity (rising in line with inflation) for the electricity produced. This is well above the current wholesale price of energy and the extra costs will inevitably be passed on to consumers with all the implications for living standards and competitiveness.
And the two similar plants currently being built in France and Finland have been riddled with cost overruns and design problems. Hinkley Point should be cancelled and other capacity, including more gas-fired power stations and cheaper and proven nuclear reactors, should be prioritised.
Peter Reeve, executive chairman and chief executive of Aura Energy, says No.
Electricity grids in big cities with intense energy needs require a stable and reliable power supply. Renewable energy is a relatively new and growing power source with a role to play in meeting future energy needs. However, there is still much to be learnt about the long-term performance of renewables and it still requires a major battery storage breakthrough before it is beyond reproach.
The debate around Hinkley Point has had many faces but few around the simple question: what is good for the UK power grid? The grid requires a safe and long-term power supply option, which can be scaled up quickly. Nuclear provides this option and Europe is a proven operating base for nuclear.
The UK should be very comfortable with this choice. With world population growing at around 80m people per year, along with a clear need for “clean” energy, a nuclear source is an essential addition to the energy requirements of the UK and Europe and will never outlive its usefulness. Hinkley Point is truly a lightbulb moment for the UK.