A prominent clean energy campaigner has been banned from the European Energy Forum after tweeting remarks made by the EU’s energy commissioner describing the UK’s plan to hand out long-term contracts to nuclear companies as “Soviet”.
Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger’s putdown of the €16.5-billion British plan will likely be met with furrowed brows in London, where the 35-40-year contracts have proved controversial to some because of their length, nature and the scale of the subsidy involved.
“That Commissioner Oettinger’s description of UK plans was widely applauded by many diners shows, I think, that there was a ring of truth to it and that concern was shared by others present,” he said.
The row underlines a deepening debate in the UK about what place in the UK’s energy mosaic should be reserved for nuclear power, which currently receives £2.3 billion of public subsidies annually.
The French company EDF is currently bidding to run two nuclear plants in Hinkley, Somerset, under a ‘Contract for Difference’ (CfD) which guarantees a long-term fixed price for low-carbon electricity generators.
At just under £100 per megawatt hour, the minimum price reportedly being discussed with the French energy giant would be nearly double the current market rate, and 19% higher than onshore wind turbines.
But the deal has been held up by an ongoing review of European Commission state aid rules, which limit the amount of public subsidies offered by governments to energy utilities.
Low carbon generators may qualify for an exemption, but whether nuclear energy qualifies as a low carbon power source is contested.
Lawyers for the Becker Buettner Held consultancy in Brussels recently said that the UK’s CfD scheme for nuclear generators could not be deemed “compatible” with EU law under any current or possible future frameworks.