Brexit battle: how tech crew We Are Europe is making the ‘in’ campaign go viral

Originally published in the Evening Standard

As the Brexit debate rages on social media, one east London tech crew is making the remain campaign go viral, says Joy Lo Dico


Monday night in a bar near Silicon Roundabout: the craft beers were flowing, cups of hipster hazelnuts and popcorn were being passed around the cool crowd but this was an unusual gathering in one sense: it was an evening of EU referendum talk.

There wasn’t a grey man in a grey suit in sight. Almost everyone in the room was under 40, in sneakers, and checking their tweet streams frequently. This was a meeting for We Are Europe, a project that came together by accident when a group of friends working in tech and sustainability suddenly realised that, although they felt strongly about the EU referendum, their voices weren’t in the debate.

Bethan Harris, one of We Are Europe’s founders, spotted the problem with the current In offering. “If you google Brexit or the EU referendum it is so uninspiring. Even if you are pro, you just aren’t going to share a picture of a politician.”

With of a crank of the social media engines — a Facebook page, a Twitter handle and Instagram account — they were off. Models Lily Cole, digital entrepreneur Jamal Edwards and actor Jude Law signed up, and with some help from designers and amateur video-makers and acoustic guitar soundtracks for their Facebook videos, a new wing of the In campaign had started.

James Murphy, CEO of agency Adam & Eve/DDB, which made last year’s John Lewis Christmas ad, turned up at the party in east London and was so impressed he has talked about working with them.”


The in crowd: Lily Cole, Wolfgang Tillmans, Jude Law and Jamal Edwards


Designer Irene Palacio produced a cardboard stencil, and Harris, along with Harriet Kingaby, both of whom are consultants on branding and social campaigns, photographed friends and random people in the street holding the “In For” sign and asked them to write down their reason for supporting the campaign.

Crucially the answers given were not along the lines of “because George Osborne says I will be better off” or “national security”. They were more emotional: because of European friends, the freedom to travel, a sense of being part of a more connected world.

There’s a key stat in all this: if you are over 40 you are more likely to vote Leave, and you are more likely to vote, full stop. Though the polls are saying that Remain has the edge, the result will hinge on turnout.

Co-founder Kingaby says: “We know our friends will talk about it with friends, but they have been scared to do so on social media. This isn’t just about facts, it’s about emotional issues, a sense of identity based on the the things we love about the UK — a diverse, interesting, open and tolerant society. We want to create messaging that is positive.”

The Leave campaign has cornered head and heart in this debate with its cri de coeur for the white cliffs of Dover and arguments about immigration. The Remain campaign has so far only done the head. The heart though is stirring, both with We Are Europe and other spontaneous offerings. Earlier this week artist and photographer Wolfgang Tillmans designed a set of posters for those who want to remain, inviting people to share them on Instagram and display them. Slogans include “No man is an island”. and “What is lost is lost forever.”

That is not to say that some politicians haven’t understood the need to engage people at a different level. Last week Gordon Brown, giving a speech hosted by the Centre for European Reform, urged his audience of economists and financiers to make the arguments for a “passionate, principled and patriotic” Remain vote. Admittedly his messengers may not have been the hottest on Twitter.

What this campaign needs is an amplification through social media, not just to encourage people to vote In, but to make sure they are registered to vote. As Lily Cole puts it: “There is a real chance this referendum is going to be decided by the active minority of people who called for it, rather than by the majority of our country reflecting on what the EU really means.”

However, it would be wrong to think that the Brexiteers haven’t themselves spotted social media’s value. Within weeks of launching, We Are Europe’s social media channels have been targeted by the Outers haranguing them with reasons for why it is time to get out of Europe.

“On Twitter we are getting a lot of trolls or people getting a bit angsty,” says Harris. But their drive to smoke out the shy-Remainers does seem to be working. “We’ve also had a lot of Remain supporters joining us. We all have to start stepping up,” she adds. “If you feel it in your gut, you don’t have to get into arguments but you do have to get positive and say it.” And the place to have your voice heard is online.

Follow We Are Europe on Twitter: @weareeuropeuk


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We Are

infor montage

…the travel, our rights, better cities and clean air; 70 years of peace; women and men, parents and kids; the right to love whoever we want; science, art, music and culture; our spare time and our work time; action on climate change and the fight against global poverty; food and farmers, protected wildlife and beautiful beaches; our friends and our families; and the freedom to live, study, work and play in 28 countries…




On 23rd June Britain will be asked to decide on our future. A future in Europe. Or out.

We’re in.

Because Europe is us. Not over there.

It’s ours to create, not to watch from the sidelines.

With Europe we’ve had 70 years of peace, and together we’ve led the world on issues from climate change and human rights, to the fight against global poverty.

Whilst our politicians have focused on the here and now, European laws have cleaned up our beaches, our air and our land. These laws have given us rights that make every one of us equal at work and in our relationships.

EU funding has helped protect our parks and keep our museums open. It has helped establish new enterprises, create art, accelerate science and support our farmers. And year after year, it has invested in some of the poorest areas of the UK.

Europe has given us colleagues, housemates, neighbours, partners and friends. People who’ve built our homes, enriched our universities, nursed our families and transformed the cultural life of our cities. In return, each and everyone one of us has the freedom to live, work and study in 28 countries.

Many of us do.

It might not be perfect. But it is ours. And it matters to pretty much everything we care about.

Right now, that’s at risk.

We’ve put up with everything from a misguided war on terror, a global recession, and unequal austerity. We’re not prepared to let an older privileged generation gamble with the EU too.

The future is ours. Working together with our neighbours is the best way to make it better for us all.

On 23rd June we’re voting to remain. We’d love you to join us.

You can find out more and subscribe here


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How significant is the signing of the Paris Agreement? – BBC Newshour – 22 April 16


BBC_World_News logo










BBC: Tom Burke is Chair of the British environmental think tank E3G and a former advisor tot he UK government on climate change. How significant does he think today’s signing really is?

Tom Burke: I think that it’s enormously significant. What the leaders are signing today is a document that is probably as important for the future of the world as signing the Charter on Human Rights was in the last century. If we don’t deal with climate change then stories like the one we have been listening to about Chad are going to be the life for everybody, a real undermining our security and prosperity if we fail to tackle the problem. What you saw in Paris was the world coming together to say “look we are going to tackle this problem” and doing that at a time of enormous turmoil and trouble. So I think that it is a positive thing that is happening today.

BBC: Doesn’t what’s happening to Lake Chad, and there are many other examples, suggest that it is too little, too late?

Tom Burke: It’s certainly very late.

BBC: But is it too late?

Tom Burke: No, it’s not too late. I think that’s quite wrong. We have the technology available now, if we really wanted to put the effort into deploying it, to keep the world below two degrees. It won’t be easy, the barriers aren’t the technology, so much as getting the politics right. That’s why this event today is so important, because what you are beginning to see is a real turning point in the politics of climate change. The political risks of not doing something about climate change are growing, as you get more and more Chad’s and more and more of the events that we have been seeing this year, and at the same time the political risks of actually doing something are going down, as the cost of low carbon energy begins to fall ever faster. So you’ve now got a political equation that’s very different form the one that we were dealing with ten years ago.

BBC: Two degrees was what they signed up to, but the aspiration was to one and a half degrees, have we missed that?

Tom Burke: Getting to one and a half is much harder than getting got two degrees. It’s much more uncertain that we could do it, but if you don’t try to do it, you definitely won’t get there, and every effort we put into towards to one and a half means that it is much more likely that we will achieve two degrees. When you are doing something difficult you can never be certain that you will get to where you want to go, but you can be certain that if you don’t try you won’t get there.

BBC: Indeed. There have been some bad warnings this year already, I think the first three months of this year were the hottest on record, just last week we had a warning about the great barrier reef off Australia, coral bleaching, bad news from the ice sheet in the Arctic and also the Antarctica as well. I just wonder whether we are already in that feedback loop that some have warned about, where things will spiral too fast out of control as the world warms, and actually it becomes exponential.

Tom Burke: There is a real risk of that. We don’t know, and the scientists can’t say where the tipping points are yet, where you get beyond something that you can manage. The reason why two degrees has become the goal of the climate regime is because that is a judgement about what is the threshold of climate change that becomes unmanageable. In other words, if we stay below two degrees then we at least can keep, the way the world climate is changing, inside the bounds of what we can cope with. Once we go beyond two degrees then the world becomes ever more unmanageable, and you might well run into the point where you then trigger really irreversible tipping points. Where you might lose the whole of one of the big ice sheets in the Antarctic Where you may end up with no summer ice in the Arctic, you start seeing, as we are already seeing this year, much more intense melt of ice water in Greenland. Now all of that might sound a bit remote but actually it has massive impacts to people’s daily lives throughout the world, as we have been hearing about in Chad.




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Why the EU’s electricity market design proposal actually matters


By Simon Skillings | E3G


This piece was originally published by EurActiv



The European Commission’s vision of an Energy Union with citizens at its core, where consumers take ownership of the energy transition, is to be applauded but needs to be followed up with genuine policy change, writes Simon Skillings.

Simon Skillings is Senior Associate at E3G, a UK-based think tank promoting ‘Third Generation Environmentalism’.

There is a vision of the future energy system that has become widely accepted. And it is a very seductive vision. It speaks of empowered energy consumers, liberated by new digital technologies to consume flexibly in a way that minimises costs to themselves and the overall system. However, the danger with any powerful narrative is that it can override a more practical and evidence-based assessment of current trends. I fear that the European Commission’s electricity market design initiative might be falling into this very trap.

When the Commission announced that ‘our vision is of an Energy Union with citizens at its core, where citizens take ownership of the energy transition’ and ‘to reach our goal, we have to move away from an economy driven by fossil fuels, and based on a centralised supply-sided approach relying on old technologies and out-dated business models’ it was pinning its colours to the mast of change. Along with many others across the EU, including those in government and industry alike, it was highlighting the dawn of a new smart energy system triggering the emergence of new business models and a changed relationship between customers and the industry.

It is reasonable to expect that such a dramatic transformation would need to be underpinned by some radical new thinking in the policy arena, particularly in the area of the market and regulatory framework – if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got. Indeed, the Commission appears to have recognised this and placed the ‘market design initiative’ as a core piece of legislation to drive forward the Energy Union concept.

However, the noises emerging from Commission officials working on the market design initiative do not suggest any radical departure in policy thinking.

The focus of attention appears to be on refining wholesale price signals and improving regional co-operation. Those efforts that are being directed to the demand side of the market involve sorting out data ownership issues and removing barriers to entry for demand aggregation businesses. Whilst these are all very worthy objectives, they represent a continuation of the policy agenda that has been pursued for many years – hardly a radical change of direction that has citizens at its core. Or, indeed, is there much evidence of how this places ‘energy efficiency first’ to quote another slogan often associated with Energy Union policy agenda.

Instead of attempting to change consumer behaviour to make it easier to operate the energy system, real consideration needs to be given to how new technologies can be used to improve the lives of citizens. We already know that delivery of energy policy objectives will require huge investment in consumer premises – in efficiency, digital technologies, low carbon heating, cooling and transport. This represents a real opportunity to align individual and policy interests. But it isn’t going to happen, at least not at the rate required, under the current policy paradigm.

We expect consumers to act as perfectly rational economic agents, responding to price signals and investing accordingly. It seems fanciful to expect this ‘price and pray’ approach to deliver the wide consumer engagement needed. Meanwhile, investments in generation and network infrastructure enjoy regulatory mechanisms to de-risk future returns or are even in receipt of direct public funding. It is interesting to contrast the extent of ‘policy airtime’ devoted to the need for capacity mechanisms compared to that exploring how to make smart demand-side measures in consumer premises a credible opportunity for investment.

Proposals on market design that are consistent with delivery of the Energy Union vision would need to answer two questions.

  • Firstly, how to tackle the behavioural constraints that limit consumer engagement to that subset of the population with the time, ability and inclination to put in the effort required?
  • Secondly, how to ensure there is an equitable allocation of investment between generation, networks and demand resources?

It is, perhaps, understandable that Commission official have chosen to stick to familiar territory since these are tough questions to answer. Moreover, it is quickly apparent that addressing these questions will require significant changes to market, regulatory and governance structures – something which is decidedly unappealing when there is a limited period to develop policy proposals and draft legislation.

It is still not too late for officials to put consumers at the heart of the market design proposals as envisioned when the Energy Union concept was launched last year. This does not need to involve detailed legislative proposals at this stage since there are many difficult issues to resolve. However, it is necessary to acknowledge that change is needed and to set out a roadmap for tackling the key challenges.

The demand side of the market is a ‘sleeping giant’ that could transform the future energy system. The risk for the EU is that those elsewhere in the world, where regulatory and market frameworks are different, will act more quickly to awaken this giant and leave the EU trailing in the race to create an efficient, flexible and low carbon energy system. And, if this happens, it will not take long for people to realise that, when it comes to market design, the Energy Union initiative was a major missed opportunity.


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Within the EU, Britain can take the lead on tackling climate change


This piece first appeared in The Guardian





Letter from John Gummer, Chris Huhne, Adair Turner, Craig Bennett, Tom Burke, Amy Cameron, Michael Jacobs, John Sauven, Matthew Spencer, James Thornton and Crispin Tickell





Britain has shown great diplomatic leadership on climate change and successive governments have had a major influence on action to decarbonise the world’s economy. We believe that the UK’s standing as an international climate leader could recede within months if we were to leave the EU.

Membership of the EU has enabled the UK to punch above its weight. It has given us a platform to influence not only the climate commitments of our European neighbours, but also those of the US and China. In the last European parliament, all countries agreed to follow the carbon reduction trajectory set by the UK for the next 15 years.

It was a British diplomat who led the European negotiating bloc at the UN climate conference in Paris last year, persuading the EU to champion a long-term goal and a commitment to raise the world’s ambition on carbon emissions reduction every five years. This was agreed by all 194 countries in the final Paris agreement. The UK could not have exerted this influence acting alone.

Brexit would damage our national interest by reducing our diplomatic leverage. Never again would a British official be able to play such a pivotal role in climate negotiations. Never again would we be in a position to persuade 27 other European nations to follow our lead.

As last winter’s floods have demonstrated, climate change is a real and present threat to the UK. Our experience of the past 20 years leads us to conclude that we are stronger, safer and greener in the European Union.


Craig Bennett Executive director, Friends of the Earth
Tom Burke Chairman, E3G
Amy Cameron Director, 10:10
John Gummer Chair, Committee on Climate Change
Chris Huhne Former secretary of state for energy and climate change
Michael Jacobs Visiting professor, Grantham Research Institute, LSE
John Sauven Executive director, Greenpeace UK
Matthew Spencer Director, Green Alliance
James Thornton Chief executive, ClientEarth
Crispin Tickell Former British ambassador to the United Nations
Adair Turner Former chair of the Committee on Climate Change


Join the debate – email



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Green policies are not responsible for the Tata steel crisis

By Karl Mathiesen

This article was published by The Guardian


Analysis of the figures show Port Talbot may actually have been profiting from efforts to reduce carbon emissions



There was a slew of comment over the weekend regarding the role that Britain’s carbon reduction efforts played in Tata Steel’s decision to sell off its UK operations.

A Daily Mail editorial called “the crippling green taxes imposed by Ed Miliband’s Climate Change Act in 2008” a “monstrous handicap” that had driven the steelworks and its 5,000 workers over the precipice.

The Spectator’s editorial said “taxes and levies designed to help Britain meet its self-imposed and unilateral carbon-reduction targets, have worsened Tata’s problems in Britain”. These sentiments were repeated by a who’s who of the British climate sceptic commentariat: Dominic Lawson, Christopher Booker andMatt Ridley all sharpened their quills.

In Tata Steel’s press release last week, the company blamed “global oversupply of steel, significant increase in third country exports into Europe, high manufacturing costs, continued weakness in domestic market demand in steel and a volatile currency” for its intention to sell off the Port Talbot steel works. Part of steel’s manufacturing costs is, of course, electricity. Which is how we come to be talking about climate policies.

There is no doubt that the Port Talbot steelworks is a big energy user. According to reports, it uses as much electricity as nearby Swansea and each year the power bill runs to £60m. But in Simon Evans’ excellent Carbon Brief article, he finds electricity to be between 6 and 8% of the plant’s total production costs. Of this, perhaps 2-3% is due to green policy costs. But because the UK compensates energy-intensive industries for about two-thirds of the impact of these levies, the real cost of green levies at Port Talbot is about 1% of production costs.

According to the Guardian’s own analysis, if £60m is 8% of production costs, the total costs are £750m – thus Tata pays about £7.5m a year towards the UK’s climate change efforts. This is roughly the same amount the plant reportedly loses every week.

Little impact does not equate to no impact, and it is true that the UK pays more for its electricity than any other European country. (Although figures from the Department of Energy and Climate Change show the Sun’s Trevor Kavanagh was incorrect when he claimed Britain’s “punitive carbon tax” makes “the energy to produce our steel twice as costly as Germany’s”).

The UK operates a carbon floor price, which it recently doubled and has now frozen until 2020, which does affect the competitiveness of UK industry with its continental competitors. But research from the UK government Committee on Climate Change (CCC) found that this was compensated to a large degree and thus was a small factor in the struggles of the steel industry.


Industrial electricity prices in the EU for extra large consumers. Source: Decc


The UK Energy Research Centre’s director, Jim Watson, said: “arguments that have been made that ‘green taxes’ are responsible for the current problems of UK steel are exaggerated in my view”.

As to why UK prices are generally higher, Watson explained that past investments and costs of operation were important factors and the UK’s highly privatised energy market was also key.

“The UK still has one of the most liberalised energy markets in the EU. Some other member states such as France, for example, have a very different structure – in France’s case with a dominant state-owned electricity company, which can more easily subsidise prices directly or indirectly,” he said.

Yan Qin, an analyst with Thomson Reuters, said the impact of higher electricity costs on the steel industry was not a crucial factor when compared to the global challenges facing the industry.

“The worsening global market conditions and Chinese dumping surplus steel at record low prices are the main reasons behind the closures in the UK,” said Qin.

The criticism of green levies during the weekend was often couched alongside concerns of Europe’s perceived role in undermining British steel. In a column for the Telegraph, leading “leave” advocate Boris Johnson said: “The UK’s various climate change policies – largely generated by Ed Miliband – have been highly damaging for British manufacturing”.

But Gummer, chair of the CCC, cited research and said that more broadly: “There’s no evidence at all that there’s been offshoring of industry from Britain because of our green policies. For most industries, the energy element is extremely small and the amount of extra cost from the green levies is so small as not to be in any way crucial.”

Emil Dimantchev, also a climate policy analyst with Thomson Reuters, said membership of the EU emissions trading scheme (ETS) had delivered Tata Steel’s European operations a £780m windfall through the over-allocation of carbon credits between 2008 and 2014. In estimates that Dimantchev considers conservative, the Port Talbot works alone received more than £239m over that period.



“The point here is that the EU ETS has been a source of profit for Tata, which is noteworthy given that most discussions on climate policies tend to consider them only as a cost to industry,” said Dimantchev.

It’s not clear whether the £60m costs of running Port Talbot factor in these windfalls or not. Tata Steel did not respond immediately to the Guardian’s request for clarification.

If not, and the costs of green policies had been £7.5m every year since 2008 – which is unlikely as the penalties for carbon emissions have been increasing – it would appear that Port Talbot has actually been profiting from green policies.




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Hinkley Point C nuclear deal contains £22bn ‘poison pill’ for taxpayer


‘If the SoSIA is signed it will change the argument over Hinkley. Instead of being an argument about why we should kill this white elephant – which the government has comprehensively lost –  it will become an argument about not being able to afford the bullets to kill the white elephant. A classic example of the government stealth tactics for getting away with bad decisions.’


Hinkley Point C nuclear deal contains £22bn ‘poison pill’ for taxpayer


This piece first appeared in The Guardian

Public left with huge liability for a government closure of power plant before 2060 under UK’s agreement with EDF

hinkley digger



Public left with huge liability for a government closure of power plant before 2060 under UK’s agreement with EDF

The Hinkley nuclear power deal contains a “poison pill” which could leave taxpayers with a £22bn bill if a future UK government closed the plant before 2060, according to an official document seen by the Guardian.

The huge liability shows Hinkley is a “terrible deal” for the UK public, according to critics, with the company also guaranteed three times today’s price for electricity for 35 years. The project has recently been battered by financial warnings and resignations at its prime backer EDF, although on Thursday France’s economics minister, Emmanuel Macron, said that the French state would bail the company out.

The deal the UK government has agreed with EDF, set out in an unpublicised “minute”, commits the British public to pay subsidies of up to about £40bn in real terms and provides state guarantees on nuclear waste disposal and insurance, while allowing the plant to begin producing electricity as late as 2033.

A shutdown that triggers the “poison pill” compensation is not entirely within the control of the UK government but could also be forced by the EU or an international regulator such as the International Atomic Energy Agency, according to the document.

“This is a dreadful agreement for the nation,” said Prof Catherine Mitchell, an energy policy expert at the University of Exeter. “The government is already paying a high price, index-linked for an incredibly long 35 years. This should be more than sufficient for a professional, business contract.

“The £22bn ‘poison pill’ effectively reduces the risk to zero for EDF and its backers, which is great for them. But from an outside perspective, it smacks of desperation.”

“There could be so many reasons over 35 years that you would want to close the plant,” she said, including rising costs, changes to the UK’s energy system or loss of public confidence.

Green party MP Caroline Lucas said: “Even before we knew about this ‘poison pill’, Hinkley represented a terrible deal for taxpayers and a huge burden on bill payers too. This flies in the face of relentless ministerial rhetoric on value for consumers – especially compared to the costs of solar power and wind – which are already cheaper than nuclear and continue to fall.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: “Hinkley Point C will give a boost to our energy supply and our economy, bringing in billions of pounds of investment into the UK and creating 25,000 jobs during construction. The [deal] gives developers the certainty they need to make sizeable investments like this one, by providing protection for a political risk that is outside of their control. All [such deals] include protection against political shutdown, but this is extremely unlikely to happen.”

The £22bn is the maximum that would be payable and the deal allows the plant to be closed on safety or security grounds without compensation being paid.

“EDF and its Chinese partner are taking the construction risks for this huge project,” said an EDF spokesman. “Consumers will not pay a penny until the plant generates its reliable low-carbon electricity in 2025.”

EDF said in 2007 that the new nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset would be providing power to cook Christmas dinners in 2017, but it has repeatedly delayed its final investment decision. It has yet to complete a reactor employing the new design intended for Hinkley, with projects in France and Finland hugely over budget and years behind schedule.

In recent weeks, EDF’s finance director quit over concerns about the project’s impact on the already heavily indebted company and EDF had to ask its owner, the French state, for increased support. MPs will grill EDF’s boss next Wednesday, and say there are “serious questions” to answer about Hinkley’s viability. But François Hollande and David Cameron have strongly backed the project as “a pillar of the bilateral relationship” and “a key aspect of Britain’s energy policy”.

Former Conservative energy secretary Lord Howell has criticised the Hinkley deal as “one of the worst deals ever” for British consumers and industry and has protested against “endless government guarantees for risk-free returns to the investors”.

Tom Burke at thinktank E3G, a former special adviser to three Conservative environment secretaries, said: “Why would a Conservative government want to buy 35 years of electricity ahead of time? They are supposed to believe in the market. But they have tied themselves in knots and now it is too embarrassing to untie it.”

The UK government argues that new nuclear power is essential to provide large amounts of reliable, low-carbon energy.

But Mitchell said: “Energy economics are changing rapidly and so the momentum is towards decentralised, smart and flexible energy systems. It is moving away from large, inflexible power plants like Hinkley. If it ever gets funded, it will be a white elephant before it is even finished and this government, with this £22bn ‘poison pill’, will have tied the next generation into paying for it, for no reason that I can understand. If it is simply political saving face, it really is pitiful.”


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BBC World News – Is Hinkley dead? – 8 March 16





BBC: Professor Tom Burke is the chairman of the environmental think tank E3G, he joins me now in the studio, welcome to you. Where do you think this project is floundering?

Tom Burke: Well, as I listen to the President and the Prime Minister talk about how much confidence they had, I thought I was hearing something a bit similar to what someone says before they sack a minister. You’ve had the finance Director basically say, he thinks that EDF could spend their money on things that would be of more value to the company, clearly the markets think so too. Moody’s have already said that they would downgrade EDF’s credit rating if they went ahead with Hinkley. So what you are really seeing is major and significant questioning of the value of this project in economic terms. It has very little value in terms of climate change, of decarbonising the economy, it’s too late to do much, it’s too expensive, there are far better ways, if Britain wants to decarbonise its economy, there are cheaper and faster ways to do it that will reduce pressure on people’s bills.

BBC: Such as?

Tom Burke: Well, energy efficiency for a start, all of the things that were being reported this week by the National Infrastructure Commission that we want to do to decentralise our energy generating system, the use of more renewables, storage particularly when you see the cost of batteries falling through the floor. We are actually moving energy policy In the direction that is moving away from large projects of any kind, but particularly these gigantic projects like Hinkley.

BBC: Which of course area bit uncertain when it comes to how to fund them and how much they cost, but there is also a technology question here, isn’t there.

Tom Burke: Well, this is a technology that isn’t working anywhere, there are currently three nuclear power stations of this design being built around the world, all of them are over budget, all of them are late. So in effect the British government’s proposal has been to take a punt on an unproven technology, an £18 billion punt on an unproven technology, that’s brave.

BBC: Is it dead?

Tom Burke: I don’t think so yet, because I think the political embarrassment of saying that “this is a white elephant, we shouldn’t have done it”, is still sufficiently great. But I think it’s certainly on life support.

BBC: Professor Tom Burke, thank you very much.


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BBC News – Hinkley and EDF – 12 March 16




If we go on beyond the point where EDF have made their final investment decision, then we will have to compensate them, not only for what they have already spent, but also for what they would have gained if the contract had gone ahead, and that will be hugely expensive.







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Is nuclear power a ticking time bomb? – France24 Debate – 8 Mar 16











I think that you really want to consider much more than just the body count of deaths when you look to evaluate a complicated problem like this. This has been a social catastrophe, the people who used to live near Fukushima are not really ever going to go back, they have had their lives completely disrupted and destroyed, and the economic catastrophe is enormous. It has cost the Japanese economy at least 100 billion dollars already, and we are still counting, this accident isn’t over yet. So I think just focusing on how many people get killed by radiation, is something of a distraction from an evaluation of just how serious this accident was. The record of the nuclear industry in western countries, France included, on safety, has been very good. It has led to, what is required, pretty much fault–free management. But you would have to wonder a lot about whether that can be sustained and as you go around the rest of the world, in particular when you look at China, and the rate at which the Chinese are building reactors. And what we learnt from Fukushima is that a nuclear disaster anywhere, is a disaster everywhere, and has an enormous effect on public opinion. So you’re putting an awful lot of confidence in everybody else’s regulators, when you become reliant on nuclear power for your energy.

You would have a bit more confidence if there was a EPR reactor working anywhere in the world, but there isn’t yet. So we don’t know if it is actually going to perform as expected. But really the idea that it is cheap, is simply wrong. The price for getting a reactor at Hinkley from EDF is we have to pay about three times more than we currently pay for our electricity, and we have to do it for 35 years. The price of electricity is going down as we put more renewables on the system, and even more importantly as improve we our energy efficiency, demand for electricity is falling in the UK. So we have much cheaper options to meet our electricity demand going forward than building an expensive nuclear power station. We can use energy efficiency, there are renewable available, we can manage the generating capacity we already have, which is already twice what we need when we have peak electricity demand. So we have a lot of options all of which are cheaper, and quicker, and more reliable than Hinkley point will be.

The issue that really matters is that it is too expensive. It’s very interesting that the problem that the Finance Director who resigned from EDF was saying, in effect, was EDF had better things to do with its money that build a reactor in Britain. One of the better things it had to do is to spend its capital on ensuring that the nuclear reactors that are currently working in France go on being safe, and what he was saying to the board of EDF was that if you invested in Hinkley, you would make it more difficult to spend the money that you need to spend to keep those French reactors safe. And what happened of course was the messenger was shot, which is always a prelude to a big disaster.

I should just point something out, because what we are hearing is a very inaccurate description of what goes on in Britain. Last year, renewables in Britain produced more electricity than nuclear power did in Britain. So the idea that this is an unreliable source, that you can’t count on to produce large amount of electricity, is simply wrong. It’s just not the truth, about electricity in Britain. The proposition is that British consumers should be paying three times what they are paying now for their electricity in order to guarantee Hinkley the amount of money it needs in order for EDF to build it. Now that is an enormous bet on the future, and you’re assuming that the price of electricity will go up, well for the last 10 years in Britain it’s gone down.

I think that French technology is absolutely excellent. I think French business practice in relation to Arriva and EDF has been appalling, and that’s in the record. EDF’s debt is twice its market capital, and if it wants to keep its other nuclear reactors in France going, it faces taking on another 100 billion euros in debt. Arriva is effectively bankrupt, so EDF is being forced to buy the nuclear supplier of Arriva in order to try to keep it afloat. So there is nothing wrong with French technology, but there is an awful lot wrong with French decision makers.

The last program of French reactors, the N4 program, that Arriva built for EDF took 14 years, on average, to construct, and then another 3 years to get electricity into the grid. So that’s the reality, what’s happening with the EPR is no different from what happened with the previous stage of the French nuclear program.




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