Norwegian energy minister mocks Hinkley Point decision

The Norwegian energy minister has mocked the decision of the British government to back the Hinkley Point C nuclear power project.

Speaking at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance Energy Summit on Monday, Tord Lien, Norway’s Minister of Petroleum and Energy, also declared his country’s support for carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology.
Norway’s  Minister of Petroleum and Energy Tord Lien at BNEF Energy Summit in London
Baroness Lucy Neville Rolfe, UK minister of state for energy, defended the government’s decision to back the development of the controversial r plant in a keynote speech at the annual clean energy event.

In response to a question on the merits of approving the go-ahead for Hinkley, Mr Lien said the experience of Norway’s neighbours Finland informed his opinions.

“On a visit to Olkiluoto (nuclear power plant) in Finland they were telling us it would be operational in 2011 and now in 2016 it is still not operational with high cost overruns.”

“I am a strong believer in the market and if we liberalise power markets in Europe it will be hard to see the investment community making profits without subsidies for nuclear power- it won’t be able to compete on price.”

“The price of gas, wind and hydropower is going down. As for nuclear power, I can’t remember a time someone in Western Europe built a new nuclear power plant and said ‘this is a great success’.”

In a later keynote speech Baroness Neville-Rolfe asserted that the government was satisfied with the projects pricing.

She referred to its suitability in terms of Britain’s obligations towards carbon abatement, the application of local content rules to ensure UK presence on the supply chain, and high quality jobs (‘building a British pool of expertise for the future’) before issuing a strong defence of perhaps its most controversial aspect.

“The British nuclear industry had atrophied after Sizewell was built. Hinkley signals a renaissance and demonstrates the UK is open for business. It also showed we take the interests of national security very seriously and other countries including our Chinese investors accept this. When factoring in costs and benefits in how the subsidy is arrived at, by our best estimates we judge Hinkley Point C remains a good deal.”

“It will provide 7 per cent of the UK’s power in a non-intermittent and low carbon manner with secure baseload- the risks for the project will be entirely borne by the developers, ensuring protection for consumer and taxpayer in case of cost overrun.”

The Norwegian minister had also been bullish about the prospects of carbon capture and storage technology and said while the UK and the Netherlands recently put a halt to their activities with this technology, Norway will press ahead, with three tenders going out in the coming months.

He argued that if the world had to provide energy for a growing population and meet the targets set in Paris, there would be ‘no silver bullet – we need more renewables, more efficiency and at the end of the day it will be difficult without CCS, especially for greener fossil fuels.’

“We honestly see CCS development as part of the end game and in the long run represents industrial opportunities for all countries.”

Lien pointed to the Scandinavian example of inter-governmental co-operation as a model for the European energy union but sounded a less enthusiastic note when speaking about economic mechanisms for tackling the carbon issue.

“We are further away today than a year ago from a global price on carbon,” he said.

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