Green MEP, Molly Scott Cato, has written to the European Commission challenging whether the ‘free’ upgrade to the grid being offered to Hinkley amounts to unfair competition under EU competition law.
The UK grid is currently being upgraded to enable the proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant to connect directly into the transmission network, with no upfront cost to the project owners. However, smaller renewable energy projects in the South West are required to pay upfront for their connection to the distribution network where a grid upgrade is required. Dr Scott Cato is challenging what she considers to be rules which favour large scale energy development, while disadvantaging smaller community owned ones. She said:
“This seems to be a blatant case of unfair competition and I am challenging the Commission to investigate whether it is in in breach of their rules. It is another example of the chilling effect that Hinkley is having on renewable energy capacity. I’m concerned that enterprises and communities seeking to install renewable energy generation will not have access to the grid capacity they require. This will lead to the loss of thousands of potential jobs.”
In the South West, Western Power Distribution’s F route, which runs from Bridgwater to the Bristol docks area is at capacity. This is a critical route as generation in any part of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset causes power to flow through F route. If Hinkley Point C goes ahead, the route will be replaced by a new transmission network. In the meantime, WPD has announced a 3 – 6 year delay in connecting new capacity to the south and west of this F route. Dr Scott Cato continued:
“It is clear that the grid upgrade planned for the Hinkley project stands in the way of small renewable energy schemes. Alternative changes could be made to enable smaller energy generators to connect to the grid on a shorter timeframe if the Hinkley grid upgrade was not going ahead. I want to know from the Commission whether this is also in breach of EU competition rules”.
Greens want to ‘call time’ on Hinkley saying it has been beset with financial and technical difficulties over the last 12 months and is facing legal challenges from both the Austrian government and from Greenpeace and German and Austrian utility companies. Earlier this year Molly Scott Cato published a report demonstrating that the South West is capable of producing more than 100% of its energy needs through renewables alone, without the need for nuclear or fossil fuels. She said:
“We have an abundance of resources, innovation and skills in the South West to create our own Western Powerhouse generating clean green energy which will dramatically reduce our carbon emissions and create thousands of good quality jobs in the process.”