Cancelling the planned new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point will be a huge victory for the offshore wind industry. The word from inside No 10 is not clear yet, but there are so many Tories, including the prime minister, unsettled by the prospect of the Chinese building a plant in Britain to an untested French design that the prospects of it going ahead appear slim. As if to emphasise the continuing success of Britain’s elegant turbines in the sea, the government cleared the way for a new array off the Yorkshire coast earlier this week. The multibillion-pound Hornsea Project Two would see 300 turbines – each taller than the Gherkin – span more than 480 sq km of the North Sea. This comes after Dong Energy, the biggest operator of offshore windfarms in Britain, said it was planning to spend a further £6bn in the UK by 2020, convinced that the government is serious about supporting wind power. Offshore wind has proved expensive, but is working hard to get its price per megawatt hour below Hinkley’s £92.50. Some schemes claim to generate electricity at £85.
The question now, Hinkley or no Hinkley, must be whether May can overcome the neoliberal free-market tendencies of some cabinet colleagues and push through an industrial strategy worth the name – one that embraces renewable energy and extracts business and employment for the UK from the dominant overseas firms that currently make the majority of the renewables kit.
Guardian 20th Aug 2016 read more »
Should Theresa May take the axe to the troubled Hinkley Point nuclear project, it will propel wind and solar power further into the limelight. And for renewable technologies to become really effective, Britain and the rest of the world need breakthroughs in electricity storage to allow intermittent power to be on tap 24/7, on a large scale and for the right price. RBC Capital Markets says no current minister starting from scratch today would ever agree to the deal George Osborne oversaw with EDF: a 35-year index-linked contract paying £92.50 per megawatt hour in 2012 money – double the current wholesale price of electricity. But, more ominously for government, it adds: “We question whether such large-scale generation is needed in a rapidly changing and decentralising electricity market where the costs of renewables and storage are coming down.” That is traditionally a message that has come from the leaders of the wind and solar sector – such as Jeremy Leggett, the founder of solar panel maker Solarcentury and a figurehead for the wider green industry. He is delighted that others are picking up on arguments he has been making for years. “Finally the message is getting through that Hinkley, and indeed nuclear, make no sense today simply because wind and solar are cheaper. If we accelerate renewables in the UK, we can get to 100% renewable power well before 2050,” he says. “The message is getting through on the feasibility of this too. One thousand cities around the world are committed to 100% renewable supply, some as soon as 2030. More than 60 giant corporations are committed to 100% [low carbon] supply, some as soon as 2020.” The Economist believes improved electricity storage is a key answer to the frequently repeated criticism of wind and solar that it is intermittent, and points out that battery technology is fast improving. The magazine also champions interconnectors, which can link energy-hungry Britain with northern Europe, where there is a wind-energy surplus, or with a country such as Iceland – a centre of geothermal power due to its volcanoes. The Economist concludes: “All of these options would be cheaper than Hinkley, which would take 10 years to get going and represent a huge, continuing cost to bill payers, if it ever worked at all. Such a strategy would also buy time to see what new technologies emerge.”
Observer 20th Aug 2016 read more »