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Nuclear power gets twice the price of solar!

Oliver Tickell

28th October 2013

The UK government's policy to pay for more for nuclear power than for power from solar PV is in direct contradiction of EU rules on state aid.

This is state aid to nuclear power that is not available to renewable energy.

The Hinkley C nuclear power station is to be paid more than twice as much as German solar pv arrays of 10MW or more, energy expert David Toke of Aberdeen University has calculated. And even smaller arrays are being paid considerably less than the price paid to EDF at Hinkley.

And according to Dr Toke, this vast differential in state support will seriously distort the EU's internal market in energy. "This is state aid to nuclear power that is not available to renewable energy and it directly flies in the face of the EU's state aid regulations", he says.

"Under these rules it is permissable to give premium price incentives to renewable energy, subject to clearance by the EU Commission that they have been applied according to the correct procedure. However, state aid for non-renewable energy, while not necessarily illegal under EU rules, has to be the subject of a special application.

"The UK Government wants to give priority state aid in the EU electricity market to a fuel which has no exemption over and above a fuel which does have an exemption.

"The UK is going to be increasing trade in electricity along with the others, with increased electricity interconnector capacity helping this. But what is going to be happening now? British policy will be giving a state-aided competitive advantage to nuclear power in this cross border trade over and above renewable energy. This threatens to directly contradict EU competition and internal market policy and law."

The level of support to nuclear power in the UK is also far greater, and last for much longer, than aid to small scale community-based renewable energy projects.

The UK Government has already applied to the European Commission for permission to provide state aid for nuclear power - something which undermines its claim that the proposed aid to Hinkley C "is not a subsidy" - a line rigidly adhered to by both Conservative and Lib-Dem minsters. As the EC investigates, renewable generators across the EU will argue that the UK policy contravenes EU law.

"Nuclear interests may control the British Government so that they can plan how they like, but they do not have quite the same leverage at the EU level", says Dr Toke. "The EU Commission has already rejected an attempt by the UK Government to get EU state aid rules changed to allow state aid for nuclear to be included on the same basis as renewables.

"Added to this of course are the politics. David Cameron's Government loves regaling the Commission with talk of incompetence, waste etc, so he can expect to have no particular favour on this issue. The British Government may find that it takes rather longer than a year to get state-aid approval!"

* Details on feed-in tariff rates in Germany and the UK.

 

 

 

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