...a blog by Richard Flowers

Monday, October 21, 2013

Day 4677: Ed Davey Throws Himself off Hinkley Point (metaphorically!)


In a deal that’s literally radioactive, Her Majesty’s government in the form of Master Gideon and Bojo the Clown and, of course, Liberal Democrat point man Mr Ed Davey, have announced that there will be a new atomic power station (or two) at Hinkley Point in Somerset, built and run by the French, paid for by the Chinese and presumably using South African or Canadian uranium.

So, nice energy security there.

The price for their electricity has been set at £92.50 per kilowatt hour, which is about double the current wholesale price.

Not quite “too cheap to meter” either.

Okay, to be fair, if you bear in mind that the new nuke won’t start generating for at least ten years, that’s a (compound) rate of “only” about 7.5% increases every year.

On the one fluffy foot that almost seems moderate compared to the 8.2%, 9.2% and 10.4% price hikes announced this last week; on the other fluffy foot, it means the government are guessing that energy costs will continue to rise at two to three times the rate of inflation for the next decade.


It says a lot about the immediacy of the threat of global warming that a lot of very decent people who would previously have looked askance at the toxic legacy of the nuclear industry (where we’re still not quite sure where to put all the waste) have been convinced that the power of the atom is a clean green alternative to burning lots of carbon when it comes to facing up to keeping the lights on. Not that Gideon or Bojo believe in climate change, so what’s their excuse?

Personally, I still believe that this is a distraction from serious investment in our own renewable resources.

Having worried for ages about the ability of President Vlad the Bad Putin of Russia turning off the gas taps and freezing us (like he did to Ukraine), we seem remarkably blasé about letting Great Britain’s off switch fall into the hands of the Central Committee of the People’s Republic. Better hope that those notoriously unforgiving Mandarins have forgotten all about the opium wars, eh.

I think we should be making more of our own power and not buying in heavy elements to burn up. I should prefer to see at least one, and preferably three, tidal bores being tapped and a whole lot more offshore wind. And to counter those blowhards who protest that “the wind doesn't blow all the time”, time to dust off the plans for that Exmore pumped-storage hydroelectric scheme, and a few more, so we can store power from when the wind when it’s there and release it when the wind drops.

Because, frankly, I’d rather rely on when the wind blows than risk, er, “When The Wind Blows”.

Having talked about energy prices, though, there was for once a very good point in the weekend’s Grauniad (although heavily disguised as a bizarre attack on Morrisey’s autobiography).

The obsession among media and political types – archbishops and Mr Milipede included – with these 9% hikes in the price of energy is the obsession of people who already own houses and is blotting out the much more serious 9% average rise in the cost of rents for people who do not.
British Gas customers – that is eight million households – face an average increase of £123 a year. Bad, but nothing compared with the £835 increase a year for the 8.3 million households in rented accommodation – £835!
In this context, the second phase of Master Gideon’s Help-to-Buy scheme might as well be called Help-to-Buy-to-Let and is likely to drive up house prices and therefore rents even more, trapping millions of people even further below the first rung of the housing ladder.

The prospect of a meltdown at a nuclear power station might be the stuff of nightmares, but it’s the meltdown in the housing market that is truly terrifying.

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