South West Green MEP, Molly Scott Cato, has met with the new EU Competition Commissioner to challenge her over the decision to give the green light to the controversial financial deal on Hinkley C nuclear power station. The deal was agreed by the outgoing Commission in September and offers a strike price for electricity of £92.50 per MWh – roughly twice the current wholesale price – as well as state credit guarantee of at least £10bn.
Dr Scott Cato said the meeting with Commissioner Vestager was an important opportunity to make representations on behalf of the many businesses in the South West that will be hit by the unfair competition the deal represents, and her many constituents who oppose Hinkley C. She said:
“I wanted a clearer understanding of Commissioner Vestager’s position on nuclear and Hinkley in particular and to establish how and whether decisions taken by the previous Commission can be challenged.”
The Austrian government and others are currently threatening a legal challenge over the decision, believing it to be in breach of EU competition and state aid rules. Dr Scott Cato said:
“I want the EU to adhere to its own rules on competition. We should not have to resort to lengthy, expensive and potentially embittered legal challenges that will be expensive and could create tension between member states.”
Greens believe that the South West has enormous potential for generation of electricity via wind, tidal, wave, solar and geothermal sources and that the Hinkley deal represents unfair competition against renewable energy generators.
A recent progress report by RegenSW highlighted that the South West now generates enough renewable electricity to power over one quarter of all homes. The capacity of renewable electricity in the South West has grown by 37% and the region now generates 8.3% of its electricity from renewables. The Progress Report also shows the South West leads the way in small and community scale renewables with 21 per cent of projects receiving the Feed-in Tariff, more than any other UK region. Dr Scott Cato concluded:
“I hope I have managed to convince Commissioner Vestager of the enormous economic and environmental opportunities that renewables offers the South West. I am hopeful that we will yet be able to save energy innovation in our region and prevent the excessive energy bills that nuclear threatens to land UK citizens with.”