EU gives UK Government mandate to do sod all

A guaranteed price for the electricity generated at the power station is expected to be around £15 per megawatt hour less than the £92.50so-called strike price awarded to EDF for the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station being built in Somerset.
Computer generated image of the planned Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant
Opinion by Energy Voice

The EU wants to cut its greenhouse gas emissions 40% compared with 1990 levels and also wants 27% of all its energy to be from renewable sources. Both targets are to be achieved by 2030.

The previous target for renewables generation was 20% to be reached by 2020 but although the new 2030 renewable target appears stricter the 2020 target is actually much more effective because it is binding on every country in the EU whereas the 2030 target is only binding on the whole of the EU which for legal reasons that most mortals don’t understand, means it cannot actually be enforced.

So, there will be no mandatory targets for member states which is, of course, what our caring, forward looking government in Westminster has been lobbying for.

That said, the UK was apparently lobbying for a much higher overall target for greenhouse gas emissions than was being done, probably safe in the knowledge that none of the other members would want that high a figure but it would make the UK Government look concerned which of course it isn’t really.

On the other hand the UK opposed the idea of setting a target for renewable energy generation because it argues this wouldn’t provide enough flexibility and may not be cost effective.

It cites the example of non-renewable nuclear energy and technologies for reducing carbon emissions from “conventional” power stations.

Amusingly, the EU master plan is to cordially request all member countries to submit their own renewable energy target and someone in Brussels will set up a spread-sheet to determine whether or not when you add them up and divide by number of countries in the EU the figure averages out at 27%. If it doesn’t then everyone will be asked to send in a new offer until it does.

Sounds a bit like eBay for environmentalists but with no apparent time limit on bids. This means the bidding could go on for ever and by 2020 when the old targets expire, the new ones may still not be fully agreed.

One other interesting aspect of these new policies is that the Commission’s plans seem to indicate an end to the 6% greenhouse gas reduction target for transport fuels, which was the central part of the “Fuel Quality Directive”.

Campaigners like Transport and Environment group say this implies that the EU law to regulate transport fuel emissions won’t exist after 2020. Well that’s possible but I’m not so sure it matters because people forget there are two sides to this issue.

On one you have the fuel producers – oil companies et al – but on the other you have automotive manufacturers who are making huge progress on developing engines that burn cleaner and use considerably less fuel. The engine people know their market and it’s telling them very clearly they want this trend to continue especially given fuel prices.

So what sort of impact will this have here? To try to work that out we have to take a look at what Westminster’s current policies are.

Well, I’ve already mentioned Ed Davey the Energy Secretary wants the EU to have a mishmash of non-carbon technologies including nuclear and doesn’t want targets set for each technology.

He said this doesn’t mean he has no confidence in the UK renewables industry which isn’t too surprising because we don’t have much of a UK renewables industry to lose confidence in.

Now for some number crunching . . .

The new Hinckley Point reactors being built by EDF will provide around 7% of UK demand. Add in the output of the proposed Sizewell C reactor and the figure goes up to about 13%. Double that to four sites and bingo – the UK has pretty much reached the new EU 27% target. However, I think they’ll go well beyond that and there are already eight prospective new sites earmarked for potential development which means nuclear could end up covering well over 50% of demand.

So, reading between the lines it seems very obvious that Davey’s, or rather the Treasury’s priority, will be to get as many nuclear power stations built as possible, a process that has already started.

Real renewables won’t be dropped but they are likely to get little support, This means that however you look at these EU policies they will be very, very bad for the already almost none existent UK renewables technology sector.

This attitude is a UK thing. Other countries will see these new rules as a huge opportunity to grow renewable energy technologies. They will work on improving the efficiency of wind, solar and so-forth, and support new emerging ones as well.

They will also develop their manufacturing capacity and grow their export markets. We won’t. But even if the UK Government wasn’t building all those reactors we already know from the evidence of the Research Council UK report that investment in energy R&D is at an all-time low.

The Prime Minister has also set his sights on the development of a US-style shale gas industry as another means of providing low or lower greenhouse emissions. He could be disappointed.

I defy anyone to come up with an accurate figure for UK shale gas recoverable reserves on the basis of less than 10 exploration wells and some BGS work. But even if it’s found that the reserves are genuinely commercially viable it will take a long time before gas production gets anywhere close to a level where it will have an impact.

However you look at this there can be little doubt that it is the UK Government’s intention to ignore completely the potential industrial benefit from developing an indigenous renewables technology sector and to move to build as many new nuclear reactors as possible using overseas technology. Typical!

The irony in that is of course that one of the companies now bidding for at least one of the reactor projects is Toshiba to whom that buffoon Gordon Brown sold Westinghouse which was a subsidiary of the old British Nuclear Fuels company.

The effort Westminster put into doing as little as possible for this country’s industries never fails to amaze me.