Minister confirms taxpayer will foot bill for UK nuclear power strategy

31 October 2021, 12:55 | Updated: 2 November 2021, 17:51

By Seán Hickey

On the fourth time of asking, the Energy minister admitted energy bills will rise to fund the construction of nuclear plants in the UK.

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As COP26 gets underway in Glasgow, Tom Swarbrick was joined by Minister for Business, Energy and Clean Growth Greg Hands to discuss the UK's strategy to achieve net zero.

Tom asked Mr Hands about the Regulated Asset Base model for nuclear, which is the government's plan to build "at least one large-scale nuclear project" by the end of parliament.

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"How much are bills going to go up to pay for that?" Tom asked for the first time. The Tory MP dodged the question and insisted that the RAB model "increases our level of choices" for energy production in future.

He repeated that the construction of nuclear plants "creates more options for us."

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"The RAB model will actually cheapen the cost of a power station overall" Mr Hands went on, noting that the long term benefits are in the government's sights with the plan.

However, overall, the lower cost of financing the project is expected to lead to savings for consumers of at least £30 billion on each project. This translates to a saving of more than £10 per year for an average domestic dual fuel bill throughout the life of the nuclear power station - which can operate for 60 years - compared to the existing CfD scheme.

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"What about the cost of my bill?" Tom asked again. "You yourself suggested it would add $17 per person to their bill during the construction, is that true?"

"It will actually cheapen the price overall" Mr Hands reiterated.

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"Before it has been built, how much are prices going to go up as a result of this model?" Tom asked for the third time.

The Energy Minister insisted that "depends on the deals that are being done", adding that energy bills will "be reduced by around £10."

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"Can I just try one more time, and it can be a nod or a shake of the head for an answer," a dejected Tom said.

"Can you guarantee that through this new way of funding nuclear, that bills will not go up prior to it being built?"

"No, we're expecting that bill-payers will make a contribution based on the Regular Asset Base model" the Minister confirmed on the fourth time of asking.

"It will end up being cheaper overall for bill-payers by in the region of £10" he repeated, clarifying that the saving is "over the lifetime of that power station."

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