UK, Czechs call for nuclear-friendly 2030 energy policy

  

The United Kingdom and the Czech Republic have opposed calls by eight EU member states to introduce a renewable energy target for 2030, claiming the EU’s future climate and energy framework should be technology neutral and allow nuclear energy among other sources, EurActiv.cz reports.

On 22 January, a blockbuster EU climate and energy package is due to be unveiled, comprising new legislative proposals on subjects ranging from shale gas and tar sands to structural carbon market reform and industrial competitiveness.

Disagreement over an objective for renewable sources of energy (RES) seems to be one of the most controversial parts of the debate on the EU’s 2030 climate and energy package.

The European Commission and Parliament have already clashed over the 2030 framework.

Germany and seven other countries, including France and Italy, have called on the Commission to set robust renewable energy target for 2030, not mentioning whether it should be binding or not. Other states could probably accept a renewable energy target under certain conditions.

>> Read: Big EU guns fire for ‘crucial’ 2030 renewable targets

But there are also two countries explicitly against any such goal – the United Kingdom and the Czech Republic, not to mention Poland which opposes both an RES and CO2 reduction target.

Technology neutral

According to the Czech government, the EU's climate and energy policies should be “based on a neutral approach towards all energy technologies”, including nuclear.

“RES represent just one of the possible ways towards low-carbon economy,” the government says in an official position document which mentions nuclear power as one of the other potential energy sources.

In the current climate package for 2020, there is a target of 20% share for renewables in the energy mix. But it was adopted in a different situation than the EU faces today, according to Edward Davey, the British secretary of state for energy and climate change.

“Most renewables technologies were immature; and we were at the peak of an economic boom,” Davey said during a Brussels speech in June. “Now, six years later, renewable technology is maturing and other technologies like carbon capture and storage and new nuclear are set to contribute to the low-carbon mix,” he added.

New nuclear

Both countries are planning to increase the share of nuclear power in their energy mix. The UK intends to build a two reactor nuclear power station at Hinkley Point, in the west of the country, offering a guaranteed power price for 35 years of the project, awarded to France’s EDF.

The Czech Republic wants to extend the lifespan of its Temelín nuclear power plant. It is also considering a scheme to ensure that the investment will pay back to the investor, the Czech energy group ČEZ.

The move is strongly criticised by green campaign groups in the Czech Republic. They argue the project will carry a heavy price tag for electricity users, recalling the hefty increase in power prices caused by the country’s flawed renewable energy support scheme. The so-called “solar fraud”, as it was called, resulted in a threat to Czech industries, which were punished with higher energy costs.

No support schemes

The very same argument is being used by opponents of binding renewable energy targets, who point out that renewable support schemes in form of feed-in-tariffs caused market distortions and higher electricity prices for European households and industries.

European enterprises have been paying more than twice the electricity price than their American counterparts and four times as much for gas following the US shale gas boom.

“The guaranteed buy-out price paid for by consumers has caused the electricity price to stop expressing real production costs; instead, it now rather expresses political objectives,” Ivo Hlaváč of ČEZ told EurActiv.cz.

“We are asking to stop or dramatically reduce subsidies for renewables in mature technologies, and to concentrate subsidies on R&D for the technologies of tomorrow,” said Gérard Mestrallet, the CEO of GDF Suez, at a press conference in Brussels in October.

On the other hand, Germany and the seven other proponents of renewables stress that such a goal would strengthen European competitiveness, resulting in more so-called ‘green jobs’ and economic growth.

Pushing for a single CO2 target

GDF Suez and ČEZ are part of an initiative by twelve European utilities, which are lobbing for changes to the EU’s climate and energy policy. They advocate for a single 2030 target focused on CO2 emissions reduction rather than focusing on a particular energy source.

Their main argument is that the current system – with a CO2 emissions reduction target, a renewable energy target and an energy efficiency target – is set up in such a way that the three goals clash with each other. For example the carbon market does not function well with the off-market support for renewables and support for energy efficiency, they claim.

In addition, focusing on renewable energy alone does not automatically result in lower CO2 emissions, they argue, citing the example of Germany, which aims for 80% renewables in 2050, but currently burns record amounts of coal.

Germany indeed burned the highest amount of coal in 20 years last year, according to media reports. The country, which is phasing out all of its nuclear reactors, has suffered from low CO2 prices, putting cleaner gas utilities at a disadvantage against dirtier and cheaper coal resources.

Timeline: 
  • 22 Jan. 2014: EU Commission to publish climate and energy package of legislation for 2030
External links: 
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Comments

Mike Parr's picture

Neutrality is a good thing. In terms of fossil vs renewables vs nuclear the recent un-edited EC Comm on energy markets noted that direct subsidies to fossil fuels were Euro25bn, RES Euro30bn and Nuclear Euro35bn. The EC then identified indirect subsidies (health and envo costs) for fossil fuels at Euro40bn. To restate - these are EC figures from DG Energy.

Here is a suggestion to Davy/Uk and the Czech. Lets pull all subsidies and make sure that the fossil bunch pay for their external costs (which they do not do now). At that point you would have a choice, low cost RES, higher cost nuclear, expensive fossil. Take your pick.

Until this happens, some member states and a significant part of the Commission fall into various categories: liars (are you a liar Mr Davey?) hypocrites (hi Manuel), or the cretinous.

With respect to "renewable support schemes in form of feed-in-tariffs caused market distortions" - not proven. What is proven is that the UK with its £92.5/MWhr pricing for energy from its new nukes is providing a subsidy to nuclear (note: current UK wholesale prices are £45/Mhr). This to a tech that has been around since the 1950s. - but still needs a subsidy? By the way, the UK bung/envelope/bribe/subsidy for Hinkley gives an IRR of 14% and an NPV of around £34bn - not bad for a project costing £16bn (it was £14bn last year - thus staying in tune with the usual nuclear shtick of always escalating project prices).

Concerning higher energy prices. Example: US households vs German households - spending on energy expenditure USA HH 5% of disposable income, German HH 2% of disposable income. EU research shows that the story repeats for industry. By all means compare prices - but they only provide one side of a multi-faceted story.

Peter Weigl's picture

@Mike Parr "Concerning higher energy prices. Example: US households vs German households - spending on energy expenditure USA HH 5% of disposable income, German HH 2% of disposable income. By all means compare prices - but they only provide one side of a multi-faceted story."

Sorry, Mike, but you are mistaken with this argument. Your figures, banded about by renewable industry lobbies in Germany, do not add up:

German households do not use electricity for heating/cooling, US households do. The average electricity use is 3500 kWh/year for a German household vs 11500 kWh/year for at the average US household.
For a German household a considerable additional amount of spending is used for heating with individual oil or gas heating, which you "forget" in your comparison.

And as to your "EU research shows that the story repeats for industry": All figures I am aware of say otherwise.

Mike Parr's picture

Mr Weigl - the data is from the Americans (DOE actually) & if you read my post you would see it was about HOUSEHOLD SPENDING ON ENERGY - not only electricity.

EC (mentioned in one of the Euractiv articles this week) noted that many sectors of EU industry use far less energy per unit of output.

Nice try - you need to try harder.

evad666's picture

At last is this a sign of common sense raising its head in EU Energy matters?

Peter Weigl's picture

@ mike thanks for your reply.

The average German household uses 3500 kWh/year, at € 0.27/$ 0.36 per kWh the monthly household bill is at $ 105:
Assuming an average monthly German income of $ 5000 that is about 2.1% of income for electricity alone.
Add the average bill for heating (by gas or oil) of per household/year € 718/$920, or $ 76 per month, this will add 1.5%, or together 3.6% of household income.

US households with an average use of around 11700 kWh/year at a price of $ 0.125 kWh will pay a bill of around $ 120 per month. Assuming a monthly income of around $ 4500 the share comes out at around 2.7%.

To your 'argument': "EC (mentioned in one of the Euractiv articles this week) noted that many sectors of EU industry use far less energy per unit of output."
What do you mean to say with that?
Wacker Chemie, the big company in my hometown Burghausen, decided to build their new factory in the States, explicitly because the energy cost there are a third of German energy cost, with a 30 year price guarantee. Whether 'many sectors' are more energy efficient in Europe, as the EC would claim, is of secondary importance.

Martin Sansone's picture

Fukushima has proven that Nuclear Power is uncontrollable. 3 years in and the 'engineers' and scientists have no idea how to stop it continuing to contaminate the world. 3x cores melted through the earth and into the water table. Yeah - sure, lets build more of them around the world because there's plenty that have not exploded.

Einstein and Oppenheimer disagreed with the idea about building nuclear power stations - I see why.

Peter Weigl's picture

@Martin Sansone
And every airplane crash has proven that air traffic is uncontrollable...:)
Nuclear power has actually one of the lowest 'death prints' (deaths per unit of energy produced) of all forms of electricity production.
Einstein had fears about atomic warfare, not energy production. The quote "Nuclear power is a hell of a way to boil water" is falsely attributed to Einstein.
Stop distributing FUD and get real information. Have a read of this article by environmental journalist of the Guardian: "The unpalatable truth is that the anti-nuclear lobby has misled us all"

Jim Hopf's picture

I agree with Mike's proposal that we should remove the subsidies and mandates (for renewables), make fossil fuels pay their external costs (or better yet, be treated like nuclear and be simply not allowed to pollute), and let the market decide how to respond. That will achieve maximum CO2/pollution reductions at minimum cost.

What I don't understand are his assertions that RE is cheaper than nuclear (contrary to published fact), and his defense of ridiculous market interventions (yes, distorions) on RE's behalf, such as mandates and feed in tarrifs (i.e., you will buy renewables no matter how much it costs, or even if the power is needed).

If RE is cheaper than nuclear, then RE supporters would not object to a CO2 goal only, and elimination of specific RE goals, since no nuclear would be built anyway. But object they do. They insist on specifc mandates for RE, a clear sign that they are afraid of the competition.

Also indefensible are RE only policies such as Germany's which focus only on RE, and don't give any incentive for any other CO2/pollution reduction measures, the result being the use of coal as opposed to gas (let alone nuclear) and CO2 emissions that are actually *increasing*.

Finally, he blasts the price guarantee for nuclear in the UK while ignoring the fact that RE gets an even higher price guarantee (i.e., even higher subsidies), because they are more expensive (contrary to his assertion that they are cheaper). Also, renewables have been around almost as long as nuclear (what, 50 years vs. 60 years?). Nuclear also doesn't suffer from RE's intermittentcy limitations, just ask France.

SteveK9's picture

France would be insane to support this. The only country smart enough to get 75% of electricity from nuclear (another ~ 20% from hydro), wants to prove it can be as stupid as the Germans.

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