New £1bn nuclear windfall must be avoided

On Monday, MPs will be asked to vote through £1 billion in windfall profits to existing nuclear operators for doing absolutely nothing new.

The Lib Dems fought the last general election on the promise of opposing new nuclear power and certainly reject public subsidies for nuclear power.

Whatever your take on nuclear power though, surely it’s unjustifiable and politically untenable to hand out £1 billion to EDF and Centrica directly from consumer purses, when people are already feeling the squeeze.

The windfall will do nothing to ensure new electricity generation, nothing to help us meet our renewable energy targets and nothing to build popular support for the competitive low carbon economy that we all need.

As a party, we saw this coming and voted at Conference last year to “ensure that any changes to the carbon price do not result in windfall benefits to the operators of existing nuclear power stations”.

Meanwhile, the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee has asked that “the Government explains how it plans to deal with the problem of potential windfall profits arising from the introduction of a Carbon Price Support” and that “if such measures involved a tax, then any revenues should be matched by an increase in the budget of the Green Investment Bank".

We now have a chance to show real leadership on this issue. We should ensure the carbon floor price isn’t introduced before the chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander has also introduced a windfall tax to boost the coffers of the Green Investment Bank. This money could then be invested in low carbon technology innovation funds for heavy industry, for new renewable technologies and, crucially, for insulating the homes of the fuel poor.

As my colleague Adrian Sanders said recently, referring to tuition fees, the party “would be ill-advised to break another part of the Coalition Agreement by supporting the Tories on nuclear power".

There is huge potential for the UK to become a world leader in the rapidly growing £3.2 trillion global market for low carbon good and services, and to benefit from the resulting jobs and economic growth. Rather than fritter money away on our nuclear past, we should use it to invest in the future.


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