The list of problems facing the UK’s energy infrastructure has just got even longer as Austria puts a spanner in the works.
The Guardian reports:
Austria has filed a legal challenge at the European court of justice against EU-granted state subsidies for a new nuclear power plant in Britain, government officials have said.
“Subsidies are there to support modern technologies that lie in the general interest of all EU member states. This is not the case with nuclear power,” the Austrian chancellor, Werner Faymann, said.
The country argues that the Hinkley Point C project is in breach of European law and risks distorting the energy market.
The announcement came days after an alliance of 10 German and Austrian energy companies filed a legal challenge at the ECJ against Hinkley Point.
Under the disputed deal, Britain would help fund the construction of two reactors in south-west England. As part of the agreement, the British government would guarantee an elevated 35-year fixed electricity rate to EDF, the French energy group, which would be in charge of the building the plant.
But Austria’s environment minister, Andrä Rupprechter, said nuclear energy was no longer able to survive economically and should “not be artificially resuscitated through state subsidies”. “Instead of funding unsafe and costly energy forms that are outdated, we have to support Europe’s energy turnaround with the expansion of renewable energies,” he said.
Initially forecast to cost £16bn, EU officials estimate the project will require £24.5bn. Despite opposition from activists and several member states, the European commission approved the project in October after Britain modified funding plans for the deal.
“We are confident that the European commission’s state aid decision on Hinkley Point C is legally robust,” a spokeswoman for Britain’s Department of Energy and Climate Change said last week.
Opponents see Hinkley Point as an unnecessary show of support for nuclear energy when the use of renewables, such as wind and solar power, is beginning to take hold.
But the EU commission insists the choice of energy source, no matter how controversial, is strictly up to member states. EU member Austria has no nuclear power stations.
Some background to the legal challenge against the huge subsidy, currently running at £92.50 per megawatt hour.
This trouble is just another snag to hit the reactor design. The Ecologist reports on safety critical fabrication defects and the cancellation of reactors as other power stations using the same EPR designs have run into massive cost overruns.
The government looks intent on the continuation of the project despite the Austrian problem, simply hoping it will go away. As this challenge may take eight years to pass through the courts, there is no other option if the lights are to be kept on, as we rush head first into the requirements of the Climate Change Act. As the Ecologist reports however, if the reactor design is a lemon, this country’s energy policy may come crashing down around the Government’s ears.