EPIA blasts EU approval of UK nuclear plant subsidies

The European Commission said on Wednesday that the United Kingdom’s plans to subsidize the construction and operation of a new nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset, England, was in line with EU state aid rules, paving the way for the controversial project.

During an in-depth investigation, the U.K. government agreed to significantly modify the terms of the project financing, the Commission said. As a result, it said the state aid would not distort competition in the EU’s single market. The modifications also reduce U.K. citizens’ financial contribution to the project, it added.

Among European solar industry representatives, however, the European Commission’s comments fell on deaf ears.

Reacting to the Commission’s announcement approving U.K. State Aid for the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant, James Watson, CEO of the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA), said: "We are disappointed by the decision of the European Commission to approve Hinckley C. We understand that only 16 commissioners supported it, which is far from a ringing endorsement of the plan. This decision, which is at odds with the objective of enhanced competition in the energy sector, will undoubtedly generate further distortion in the energy sector and hamper the internal energy market.”

Watson added that solar was expected to cope with market rules that are not fit for them, as they have been designed to accommodate the characteristics of large, conventional power plants. "Instead of validating another subsidy to nuclear, European policymakers should be making all energy sources compete on a level playing field."

The Austrian government has threatened to take legal action against the planned nuclear plant, something Watson applauded.

"EPIA welcomes the intention of the Austrian government to take legal steps against the decision of the European Commission and looks forward to the decision of the European Court of Justice in the matter."