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An artist's impression of the Hinkley C nuclear power plant. Image: EDF Energy media library.
An artist's impression of the Hinkley C nuclear power plant. Image: EDF Energy media library.
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UK's €46 billion bid for EIB nuclear loan

The Ecologist

11th December 2014

The UK is bidding for a massive €46 billion loan from the European Investment Bank to finance the construction of three new nuclear power stations at Hinkley Point, Wylfa and Moorside - while Poland is seeking €8bn for huge new coal mines and power plants and €12bn for new nuclear.

'High construction cost, long payback period is making debt raising difficult.' The UK's solution: 'EIB senior and sub-ordinated debt or guarantees for developers and supply chain.'

The EU's new infrastructure plan could include €46 billion in debt finance from the European Investment Bank (EIB) for UK nuclear power projects, according to an analysis of newly published documents by international NGO, CEE Bankwatch Network.

Also in line for support are huge new coal mines and coal power stations in Poland and eastern Europe, and upgrades to existing highly polluting coal plants that would otherwise be forced to close.

The documents just presented by the European Commission, include details of infrastructure projects bidding for support from the €300bn plan within each member state.

It comes as EU negotiators are in Lima arguing for tougher global climate targets.

The EU infrastructure plan will use around €21bn from the EU's budget and the European Investment Bank (EIB) to provide guarantees to projects considered to be strategic investments in European infrastructure - creating a new funding body to work alongside the EIB.

The EIB will then seek to raise further €60bn to invest in unfunded projects across Europe.

UK - nuclear, biomass, coal gasification

The largest chunk of infrastructure money in the UK's list is the €46bn it is seeking from the EIB for new nuclear power stations which have been hit by "funding shortages due to lack of support from utilities and private investors" - €16bn of it in 2015.

Three potential projects are listed with a total capacity of 12.2GW: Hinkley Point C, Wylfa, and Moorside, all described as "reaching investment decision in the near term." The document adds that "more support is needed to unlock capital and accelerate investment."

It adds that there are "barriers" to investment: "High construction cost, long payback period is making debt raising difficult." The UK's solution: "EIB senior and sub-ordinated debt or guarantees for developers and supply chain".

The UK's plans also include €6.3bn in support for new biomass combustion plants to meet the UK's 2020 renewable energy targets which face "lack of investment appetite" in part due to "concerns over the sustainability of biomass."

Under the environment section of its pitch the UK lists support for controversial offshore underground coal gasification with carbon capture claiming: "this project can attract commercial investment if backed by loan guarantees but needs £23m up front in 2015 for pre-commercial testing."

Poland's bid for nuclear and massive coal expansion

Poland's bid for support includes plans for a €5 billion new lignite (brown coal) mine and power plant in Gubin and €1.5bn each for giant hard coal plants in Laziska and Kozienice hard coal power plants already under construction.

Further to that Poland is seeking EU funds to modernise its ageing fleet of existing coal-fired plants which would otherwise be forced to close under EU air quality rules.

Polish coal projects have struggled to attract investment due to the high cost of mining and concerns amongst investors that Europe's own plans to cut emissions by 40% are incompatible with expansion of the Polish coal sector.

But the biggest energy sector funding item is €12bn for an unnamed nuclear power plant. "The implementation of the project is impeded by a number of barriers and failures", the bid makes clear, including "lack of market incentives", "market failures linked to the lack of long-term economic predictability" and "regulatory barriers linked to highly restrictive licencing requirements".

The EIB - which has previously committed not to finance coal plants - welcomed the list of projects, which amounts to a total of over a trillion euros, despite Poland's bid for huge coal sector expansion.

"It is also urgent to tackle the significant non-financial barriers identified by the Task Force that prevent investment for viable projects from materialising", insisted EIB president Werner Hoyer.

'Environmental organisations to be managed'

Referring to Poland's Gubin project the leaked document notes: "There is high risk that without appropriate support mechanisms, financial closure and investment implementation may not be feasible. Numerous stakeholders (especially environmental organizations) to [be] managed."

The support for UK nuclear and Polish coal appear to be at odds with EU plans to focus investment on projects which are economically viable and deliverable in the short term.

The list was put together by an EU task force including the European commission, member states, the EIB and industry representatives - there were no representatives from civil society.

The list of projects is to be further discussed - and reduced - by the European Council, Commission and the European Investment Bank and no final decisions have been made yet.

"Scary is the first word that came to my mind as I looked at the list of projects proposed by the various member states to be financed from Juncker's billions," commented Bankwatch's Markus Trilling.

"There is a huge amount of coal being proposed by the various countries, including Poland, Croatia and Romania, and this is in full contradiction not only to EU goals but also to Juncker's rhetoric on sustainability."

Xavier Sol of Counter Balance added: "As guarantors of the good use of public funds, the EC and the EIB have to help Europeans escape this madness of bad and dirty infrastructure and make sure transformative sectors such as energy efficiency and renewables get priority over fossil fuels.

The EU institutions have to check properly every single project and make sure the public has a chance to comment on the list of projects that will get priority financing."



This article is an extended and edited version of one originally published on the Greenpeace Energy Desk.


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