Nuclear subsidy plan must be probed

A Member of the Scottish Parliament's Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee has called for its inquiry into renewable energy targets to be extended to consider the implications of UK Government plans to introduce 'contracts for difference' which could threaten renewables investment.

An evidence session with UK Energy Secretary Ed Davey last week was the final sitting ahead of the committee considering its report, however, the hearing raised more questions than it answered over the UK reforms to the electricity market - which SNP South of Scotland MSP Chic Brodie warned will provide a disguised subsidy to the nuclear industry.

Calls for the committee to reconvene during the parliamentary recess were rejected by the Convener, Tory MSP Murdo Fraser, prompting Mr Brodie's appeal for the inquiry to be extended ahead of the final report. Mr Brodie said he would be seeking views from other members of the committee.

Mr Brodie said:

“The UK Government's proposals to introduce contracts for difference are simply another disguised subsidy to the industry and make a mockery of repeated assurances that nuclear would not receive any public subsidy - but the real threat is to renewables investment.

“The effect of such contracts will be to provide a guaranteed price to nuclear generators and if that is not a subsidy what is? The UK Governments attitude to nuclear stands in stark contrast to the slashing of Feed in Tariff rates which have cast a shadow over the solar power industry, and which could have played a significant part in building a new green industrial base.

"The potential impact on our renewables industry is extremely serious, and I believe the committee must consider this further as part of our current inquiry. I am disappointed that Murdo Fraser is unwilling to interupt his holidays to consider this during the recess, but I can see no reason why the inquiry cannot itself be extended so that we can examine the issues raised by Ed Davey's evidence in more detail.

“Nuclear energy is expensive, dangerous and impossible to deliver without massive public subsidy. Countries around the world are moving away from this technology and it is no solution for our future energy needs.

“We cannot ignore the inconsistencies that are before us and need to take evidence on the issue to gain a clear picture of what effect they could have.

“The committee must have the opportunity to consider all the relevant facts before writing our report."