Thursday, 18 November 2010
Let us see what happens!
By Kari Lundgren
(Updates with energy minister comments in sixth paragraph.)
Nov. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Electricite de France SA said U.K. energy policy is likely to make the company’s 20 billion pound ($32 billion) plan to build four nuclear reactors profitable enough to draw more investors to the projects.
The government plans to announce changes to energy regulation in the next few weeks as it seeks to accelerate investment in nuclear and renewable energy to reduce emissions. Necessary reforms include a minimum price for carbon permits and so-called capacity payments to low-carbon generators, according to EDF U.K. Chief Executive Officer Vincent de Rivaz.
EDF wants to complete the first of four new reactors at Hinkley Point in southwest England by 2018. The Paris-based company acquired the U.K.’s existing fleet of nuclear plants in 2008 before selling a 20 percent stake to Centrica Plc, the country’s largest energy supplier. Once the policy is settled, EDF is willing to bring in more investors, de Rivaz said.
“My priority today is to dedicate this next year to reducing the uncertainty and strengthening the confidence in our business plan,” de Rivaz said in an interview in London. After that’s in place, “my problem will be to select the candidates queuing to join.”
Britain’s coalition government is rolling back energy deregulation put in place by former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s as it seeks to reduce carbon emissions and replace aging power plants. The measures being considered are intended to protect investors from energy market volatility.
‘Dash for Gas’
“The current market framework is not fit to deliver the investment we need,” Chris Huhne, U.K. secretary of state for energy and climate change, said today. “Left untouched, the electricity market would allow a new dash for gas, increasing our dependence on a single fuel, and exposing us to volatile prices.”
Policy will have to provide the incentives to make new reactors viable, Citigroup Inc. analyst Peter Atherton said in a telephone interview. “The government would like companies to do things that are commercially and economically difficult to justify.”
A Department of Energy and Climate Change spokesman declined to comment on what changes are being considered.
Nuclear plants are expensive to build and cheap to operate, making investors sensitive to long-term electricity prices. The expansion of wind power across Europe will lead to periods when supply exceeds demand, resulting in negative prices. A capacity payment would reward nuclear generators for providing low carbon power, regardless of the price of electricity.
“We need to have an element that rewards capacity that is available on the market” to address concerns about energy security and ensure enough power during periods of peak demand, de Rivaz said.
About a quarter of Britain’s capacity will expire in the next decade as coal-fired stations shut to meet European pollution requirements and reactors reach the end of their working lives.
The country’s 19 operating reactors account for 18 percent of generation. The government approved eight sites for new plants in October. In addition to EDF, Scottish & Southern Energy Plc, Spain-based Iberdrola SA and France’s GDF Suez SA, as well as RWE AG and E.ON AG have announced plans for about 19,000 megawatts of new reactors through 2050.
Replacing power plants and building enough renewable projects to meet climate-change targets will cost about 200 billion pounds over the next decade, according to U.K. regulator Ofgem. This is likely to result in a quadrupling in annual household electricity and gas bills from 2009 levels, to 4,733 pounds by 2020, according to price-comparison website uSwitch.
“We are expecting a level playing field for major low carbon investments,” de Rivaz said. “Talking about CO2 reduction without a price of carbon is a mismatch, it doesn’t make sense. We just want to have things aligned. It’s an element of de-risking. Affordability will be the reward.”
Assuming a reactor is used for 60 years, a carbon price of $30 a ton and a 5 percent rate of return on capital, atomic power is competitive with other technologies, said Ron Cameron, who oversees nuclear development at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Carbon permits for next year trade at about 15 euros a ton.
EDF will spend 5 billion euros, overrunning an initial estimate of 3.3 billion euros, to complete the first-of-a-kind EPR reactor at Flamanville, France. In Finland, Areva SA is behind schedule on its plant at Olkiluoto, initially meant to be finished in 2009, is now slated for completion by 2013.
Opponents of setting a carbon floor price, including Steve Riley, European executive director of International Power Plc, operator of a 1,050-megawatt coal-fired plant, argue it would result in windfall profits for existing nuclear generators.
All 15 reactors due to be operating beyond 2012 in the U.K. are owned by EDF. Based on current timetables, the utility will also be the first to complete new reactors, at Hinkley Point, Somerset in 2018 and at Sizewell, Suffolk between 2020 and 2022.
“Our agenda is for this to be in place to incentivize new investment in low carbon generation, including renewables and carbon capture and storage as well as nuclear,” de Rivaz said.
EDF’s new U.K. reactors will produce 17 percent less waste than previous models and produce enough power to supply 2.5 million homes. EDF estimates they will take between six and seven years to build and employ as many as 5,000 people at the peak of construction.
--Editors: Alex Devine, Stephen Cunningham.
To contact the reporter on this story: Kari Lundgren in London at email@example.com
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Posted by Reg Illingworth at 14:56