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Will Nuclear Happen?

Last Updated: Friday, June 7th, 2013

I have only found one way of squaring the fiendish circle that is the Department of Energy’s 2050 Pathways Calculator – the device which lets the user pretend to be Secretary of State and shape Britain’s future energy policy.  Yes, the only reliable means the calculator offers of both reducing emissions and ensuring supply (if one makes sober assumptions about falling demand) is the construction of new nuclear power stations.

I mention nuclear power because although Michael Fallon, the new Energy Minister, is singing the same song as Ed Davey, the Secretary of State (more or less), the question of how the lights will be kept on is still unresolved.  Fallon has moved deftly to repair some of the damage done to the coherence of the department by the open war between his predecessor, John Hayes, and Davey himself.

Hayes was famously sent to the department by David Cameron to deliver a win for “our people” on wind farms.  His opponents say he was swiftly moved out of it by the Prime Minister because Downing Street never intended the Minister to have a public quarrel with his boss.  His supporters say that he laid the groundwork for a settlement on onshore wind, and was need by Cameron in Number 10 as a parliamentary fixer.

Either way, Fallon has found a way of squaring his department’s support for wind farms with his party’s opposition to them.  Taking a leaf out of the book of Nick Boles on housing, he is offering to pay compensation to local people for the building of wind turbines – if they’re willing to take the money, that is.  There are also signs that he and Davey are beginning to get their department’s ducks in a row.

Earlier this week, the department saw off an attempt by Tim Yeo, the Chairman of the Energy Select Committee, to write a new decarbonisation target into the energy bill.  Fallon believes he has a framework for the regulation of fracking that will work.  And the Conservatives are on the attack over energy prices.  This week, Grant Shapps released an infographic claiming that energy users would pay £61 extra under Labour.

But that question about nuclear lingers.  Fallon told the House Magazine this week that the Government is not dependent on EDF energy for the first new generation nuclear station at Hinkley Point.  “We have Hitachi ready to come in, they are next in line. So we are not wholly dependent on Hinkley. We would like to do the deal with EDF but we are not going to do it at any price,” he said.

He added that “It’s a very complex negotiation and we are inching closer but we are not quite there yet.”  But Charles Hendry, the former Energy Minister who once held the nuclear power brief, wrote on ConservativeHome this week that “nuclear may not happen on the scale hoped for”.  As I say, there’s a way of squaring the circle on the department’s calculator.  But it’s far from certain that the nuclear capacity required will ever arrive.

By Paul Goodman

 

HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE WEEK ON CONSERVATIVEHOME

Lord Ashcroft: We can’t afford to waste another six months
“All in all, the first half of 2013 represents a time of stagnation that we could hardly afford. We have a good case to make on many of the policy areas on which we have lost ground, including crime, immigration, welfare reform and the economy. But people will only hear that case if we use the available air time to make it. The latest round of parliamentary scandal will make people all the more resistant to what we have to say, and the spending review later this month makes it all the more necessary to show we are doing what people expect of us. There is no more time to waste.” Read more: http://is.gd/Wy06ss

Julian Lewis MP: The Government mustn’t arm Syria’s opposition behind Parliament’s back “There is no appetite at all for British military intervention in Syria. Parliament is not being obtuse by reflecting public opposition to a dangerous policy. We must put aside West Wing fantasies about toppling dictators and recognise the existence of evil forces on both sides of this atrocious conflict. To assist our enemies to obtain sarin nerve gas would be suicidal. To bypass Parliament by refusing a vote would be intolerable. To do so during the Recess would be unforgiveable. Let us hope David Cameron is getting the message.” Read more: http://is.gd/D9KTAT

Andrew Gimson interviews James Wharton MP: “It would be hard to think of a more reasonable Tory to try to steer the Referendum Bill onto the statute book.” “Mr Wharton was born in his constituency and went to school there, at the independent Yarm School, before reading law at Durham and qualifying as a solicitor. “I’d have been 16 when I joined the Conservative Party. I got more involved in my local association in Stockton, became chairman of it and was heavily involved in the 2005 general election campaign. I liked the on-the-ground local campaigning because I understand the area: because it’s my home, I like to think I understand the people. I was fortunate enough to be selected as the prospective parliamentary candidate in 2007 and was then able to run a campaign as I wanted.” Read more: http://is.gd/FMGtHD

Mark Wallace: Five ways to sell the cuts 1) Call them what they are: Be brutally honest – if a function of the state is being cut, say so…2) Put in the groundwork: The message needs to continually be sent out that waste can and should be eliminated…3) Look after the pennies: Getting into the Big State habit of treating fortunes as though they are chickenfeed is unhealthy if we want to maintain a low-tax conservative outlook on life…4) Do it for good, not just for now: “We should be clear that balancing the books is a worthwhile aim, long-term”. 5) “This isn’t just about the OBR, the IMF or the OECD. It isn’t just about forecasts and dips, or billions and trillions. It is about our country’s future, and the quality of our children’s lives.” Read more: http://is.gd/jP4yVP

Paul Goodman: Get ready to register yourself as a lobbyist. Or risk a fine. Or prison. Or maybe both.“If the sacred cause of transparency still floats your boat, so be it.  But don’t pretend that it would stop Parliamentarians who are determined to behave badly, because it won’t.  Nothing will.  Only Nick Clegg and his fellow Liberal Democrats could possibly believe otherwise.  Proposals for a statutory register of lobbyists will provide the political parties with enormous fun.  (David Cameron is using the revival of the idea as a means of having a crack at trade union funding.)  But if it ever happens, the Daily Telegraph and Panorama’s sleazebusters will still be in business afterwards, until the end of Parliament – indeed (who knows?) until the end of time.” Read more: http://is.gd/czD1SP

Natalie Elphicke: Taxpayer’s HomeBuild – time to unlock the housebuilder in all of us “Taxpayer’s HomeBuild could work as follows: The taxpayer takes all the private sector risks of development – site, design, planning, finance, build and sale. Once built, and sold, the taxpayer pockets the profit, tax-free, provided the house has a sale value of less than £250,000. Stamp duty is paid in the usual way by the purchaser. One house per taxpayer, with a value up to £250,000. We have thousands of hectares of public land. The availability of that land to support the Taxpayer’s Homebuild programme would help to prevent a land purchase bubble. In addition, you could expect commercial sites to be sub-divided to provide opportunities for people to deliver Taxpayer’s Homebuild quickly.” Read more: http://is.gd/otQtIY

Charles Hendry MP: Why we shouldn’t put a decarbonisation target in the Energy Bill this week “One of the key decisions for Parliament now is to decide whether we need to include a formal decarbonisation target in the Bill.  As an enthusiastic supporter of a low-carbon economy, I don’t think we do. The case for the target is less about new low-carbon electricity generating plant – as there are other specific contractual measures in the Bill to deliver this – and more about the vital need to secure industrial jobs in the UK to build that infrastructure. It is good for Ministers to challenge people to raise their aspirations and ambitions, and targets are part of that process, but they can only be relevant if we know how to meet them.  As a Minister, I always questioned targets where there was not a ‘roadmap’ for delivering them” Read more: http://is.gd/sSreqI

Peter Hoskin: Before making spending decisions, the Government must learn to count “But the most significant concern those doing the controlling. Although the Coalition has done well to publish business plans for each department, there could still be more clarity about what they hope to achieve by each policy. Perhaps the time has come for what the CSJ calls, after the Office for Budget Responsibility, an “Office for Spending Effectiveness”. The Cabinet Office is, it’s true, already snuffling in that direction with it’s “What Works Network”, but, for now, that only covers four policy areas. If George Osborne is to deliver more savings, and deliver them wisely, then he’s going to need more support along Whitehall – and a new abacus.” Read more: http://is.gd/16NiM4

 

 

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