Committee must be recalled over nuclear subsidies

Following evidence from Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey MP, SNP members of the Scottish Parliament Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee have written to the rest of the committee calling for it to be recalled.

New nuclear power stations planned by the UK Government could cost Scottish consumers billions of pounds. Concern has been expressed by industry figures such as in evidence to the House of Commons Energy & Climate Change Committee from Ian Marchant of SSE. Renewables industry representatives have expressed concern that the Department for Energy and Climate Change intends to use ‘contracts for difference’ to subsidise a new generation of nuclear energy.

Contracts for difference are intended to provide support to low carbon technologies to aid their development and market viability. However, any subsidies that go towards nuclear energy from this source will lead to a corresponding reduction in the funds available for developing new renewables technologies.

During his evidence, the Secretary of State stated that nuclear energy would not receive public or consumer subsidy and also stated that he doesn’t know if new nuclear can be achieved without it in spite of the UK Government’s commitment to the technology.

In 2006, while in opposition, the Secretary of State clearly stated his opposition to nuclear power arguing that ‘in addition to posing safety and environmental risks, nuclear power will only be possible with vast taxpayer subsidies or a rigged market’.

Expressing the need for the inconsistencies over contracts for difference to be cleared up, Chic Brodie who sits on the Scottish Parliament’s Energy, Enterprise and Tourism Committee said:

“Any move to fund nuclear power could put up bills and hit our fast growing renewables sector.There are significant inconsistencies in what the UK Government has said and the worry has to be that backdoor subsidies for nuclear will be adopted.

“We need to establish the views of the renewables sector on what impact this would have. The Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee must be recalled to take evidence on this matter as a matter of urgency to clear up these inconsistencies.

“I am sure that the likes of Ian Marchant of SSE would have hugely useful evidence to give on what are potentially backdoor subsidies for the nuclear industry.

“Why Mr Davey has had such a radical change of heart on his opposition to nuclear power in just a few years is something only he can answer. Perhaps the lure of Ministerial office was simply too strong for his principles to resist.

“It would be pure sophistry to try and claim that because the funds go directly from the customer to energy companies without entering the Treasury bank account, it is not a public subsidy. Subsidising nuclear would have a real impact on people’s bills so this is an issue we urgently need clarity on.

“We need to establish what the impact of this could be and how it will affect efforts to grow Scotland’s burgeoning renewables sector.”