By Bob Duncan
The Scottish National Party has expressed concern that the UK Government’s draft Energy Bill due to be published today (Tuesday) will include subsidies to fund new nuclear power stations at the expense of the renewables industry.
The SNP claims that the energy policy of the Westminster government in now “in tatters” as it has emerged that UK ministers are intending to subsidise nuclear energy through massive increases in domestic energy bills.
The UK government has written to the European Commission stating that it intends to reclassify nuclear power as a quasi-renewable source of energy, describing it as “low-carbon energy”, in a bid to find the industry through public subsidy.
This subsidy would made be at the expense of true renewable energy, creating great uncertainty in the renewables market and creating barriers to the Scottish Government's highly ambitious renewables targets. The SG is on target to achieve their 100% renewable energy equivalent by 2020.
The Westminster policy is completely out of step with other European governments, such as those of France and Germany, which are moving away from nuclear power towards renewable sources of electricity. This process has speeded up since the disaster at the Fukushima plant in Japan.
The SNP Government in Scotland has already refused to sanction the building of any new nuclear power plants north of the border, and intends to close all of the existing nuclear stations once they reach the end of their useful life.
While renewable energy generation is continuing to fall in price, the cost of building new nuclear power stations is increasing rapidly. Nuclear energy is set to become the most expensive form of electrical power generation, by a wide margin.
Two companies, E.on and RWE have recently pulled out of the bid to build a new generation of nuclear power stations in England. The move comes as the predicted costs to build each station has risen from 10 to 14 billion. Both companies cited the escalating cost, and the long lead time necessary before a profit can be generated.
It has also been suggested that the French construction company EDF is planning to pull out of the bid. This would mean that there would not be a single contender to build the new nuclear stations.
In addition, energy experts have estimated that, if these plans were to be brought to fruition, the subsidies needed would cause domestic heating and energy bills to increase to 2 or even 3 times their current level.
Commenting on the bill, SNP Westminster Energy and Climate Change spokesperson Mike Weir MP said:
“The Energy Bill offers a fantastic opportunity to capitalise on Scotland’s second-to-none renewable potential. It would be a massive betrayal if any money is diverted from this to subsidise the discredited, dangerous and expensive nuclear power industry.
“We have already had E.on and RWE withdraw from new nuclear power in the UK, recognising it was too expensive and takes too long to generate a return.
“Predicted costs for the proposed new stations have already risen from £9 to £14 billion. That’s not to mention the spiralling costs of decommissioning old stations.
“Instead of pulling out the stops to rig the market in favour of nuclear power, the UK Government should recognise, like Germany has, that nuclear power is simply not the answer to our energy needs.
“The fact that E.on has decided instead to invest heavily in new offshore renewable energy eloquently demonstrates that the future lies in renewable energy to provide a clean green future and true energy security.
“The renewables energy is creating jobs and attracting investment across Scotland, already directly supporting over 11,000 jobs.
“The SNP Scottish Government has led the way by rejecting nuclear and setting a 100 per cent renewable target for Scotland's own electricity use.
“The UK government should now follow this lead and abandon plans for expensive and unsustainable nuclear expansion.”
The SNP Government has insists that Scotland has enormous potential for the generation of renewable energy and that its exploitation will help to create so many new jobs that it will in effect, “re-industrialise” the Scottish nation.