New nuclear in the UK would require twice as much subsidy as solar - report

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Solar and storage could provide as much electricity as a proposed new nuclear plant in the UK at half the subsidy cost, according to new analysis timed to coincide with expected news of a nuclear agreement between Britain and China this week.

Chinese premier Xi Jinping is in the UK this week on a state visit and is widely expected to meet with prime minister David Cameron today to discuss various trade deals, one of which is China’s investment in the proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear reactor.

The project has been widely criticised as too expensive and not offering of value for money. At current build-price estimates of £24.5-26 billion, it would be the most expensive power generation facility in the world and has been ridiculed as a white elephant in the House of Lords.

The STA has now claimed that solar PV, if combined with storage and other flexibility mechanisms, could deliver just as much base-load generation capacity at less than half the subsidy cost that Hinkley will require over 35 years.

The STA's analysis compared the amount of subsidy required over the lifetime of Hinkley Point C with what would be needed to deliver the same amount of electricity through solar and storage over the same 35-year period.

It calculated that the subsidy needed for Hinkley C would come to £29.7 billion, compared to £14.7 billion for solar and storage – £3.8 billion for the solar element, £10.9 billion for storage.

Mike Landy, head of policy at the STA, said the association hoped the analysis would give the public cause to think about “how inexpensive solar has become” and “how competitive it is” against other forms of low-carbon generation.

“We are not saying that solar is the solution to all our energy problems, nor that it could completely replace other technologies. However the government needs to explain why it is drastically cutting support for solar energy whilst offering double the subsidy to Hinkley Point C.

“It also needs to explain why it is championing overseas state-backed utilities over British solar companies which given stable support would have considerable growth prospects,” Landy added.

The STA report comes just a day after environmental charity Greenpeace’s own analysis claimed that a fleet of three new nuclear reactors at Hinkley, Sizewell and Bradwell would add £33 per year to the average household energy bill for more than three decades. This would represent a 4.5-fold increase over the £6 cost per year associated with the solar feed-in tariff that UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change is currently consulting on cutting for this reason.

During a hearing yesterday of the UK House of Commons’ Energy and Climate Change Select Committee with Andrea Leadsom, committee chair Angus Macneil put it to the energy minister that the government was being “miserly with renewables, but profligate with nuclear”, a claim which Leadsom rejected.

But Frank Gordon, senior policy analyst at the UK’s Renewable Energy Association, agreed with Macneil, telling PV Tech’s sister site, Solar Power Portal: “Well before Hinkley C is commissioned solar power will be generating electricity without subsidy. It will be able to produce baseload electricity as it combines with massively falling costs of energy storage.”

“Government support in its many forms is acting as an effective bridge to this future, but the proposed changes jeopardise some of the tremendous achievements of the past decade,” he added.

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