At the bottom of the BBC report about George Osborne's latest public subsidy to help persuade the Chinese to invest in new nuclear power plants in the UK I linked to yesterday was this statement from Amber Rudd:
Ms Rudd rejected criticisms that this was too expensive, saying nuclear power was "reasonably priced" compared with other low carbon sources of power.
Together with a graphic which was intended to back it up:
The inference the BBC wanted us to made was that Amber Rudd was telling the truth.
But, as it happens, the graph was completely incorrect. I was going to write about it, quoting an article from yesterday's Financial Times:
The risks surrounding Hinkley Point, the first nuclear reactor for decades in Britain, mean it will be subsidised. To ensure that EDF earns a 10 per cent rate of return, the government is providing a price guarantee in the form of a 35-year contract with an inflation-linked “strike price” of £92.50 per megawatt hour, in 2012 prices. If the wholesale electricity price falls below this level, EDF will be paid the difference. Likewise, consumers will be reimbursed if it trades higher.
This is more than twice the current market price for day-ahead power in the UK.
Nuclear, though, is not alone in benefiting from inflation-proofed subsidy. Renewables benefit from price guarantee contracts that reward companies offering to produce green power at the lowest cost. The results of a government auction this year showed the winning bids for new onshore wind capacity at about £82/MWh, while those for solar ranged from £50/MWh-£80/MWh, cheaper than nuclear. Offshore wind was pricier, at more than £114/MWh.
However, when I went back to the BBC article this evening to take a screenshot of the graph, I found that it had been changed:
No explanation or apology was offered by the BBC. In fact there was no indication that the article had been amended at all.
Of course I welcome the correction. But the result (perhaps even the intention) of the original version was that those who read the article yesterday were left with the false impression that the price offered for nuclear power from Hinckley C was substantially cheaper than the renewable alternatives. A number of the comments reflected that.
The fact is that the cost of renewables is coming down, and shows every sign of continuing to come down ... solar PV in particular. The new graph shows the highest bid price in the range. The lowest solar PV auction bid was £50/MWh, which is within touching distance of the current wholesale price of electricity.
Conventional nuclear power is a defunct technology which was never, and can never, be made economically viable. It will only go ahead if ever-larger sums of public money are funnelled into the bank accounts of prospective foreign government investors.