The perception that green electricity is really cheaper

When I first heard about the “We close Doel”-campaign of the Flemish Green Party, I had the impression that they want to create the perception that it is nuclear energy that is raising our energy bill. That is odd. As far as I know it are subsidies for alternative energy and all kind of taxes that do the trick. Therefor it was interesting to see how they are wriggling every which way in order to hide the fact that green energy is really expensive. On their campaign website it was no different (translated from Dutch):

Is green electricity really cheaper?

Decommissioning nuclear power plants costs money, lots of money that we will have to pay anyway. But keeping Doel 1 and 2 open ten year longer, will cost the government an estimated 700 million in investments for the patching of old reactors, processing of nuclear waste and additional safety measures. That cost is a choice and you pay your energy bill and on your tax return.

I agree that decommissioning nuclear power plants costs money, probably lots of money. I also agree that we have to pay it anyway (now or within 10 years). But isn’t there the statutory decommissioning funds? That fund is set up by Electrabel, it is not our government that have put money into it. If the cost of decommissioning is being calculated in our invoice, then it is probably already done and on the invoice of the Electrabel costumers.

That 700 million investment referrred to, is paid by Electrabel, not by our government. Add to that: this 700 million is for 10 YEARS, while for example subsidies for onshore wind/solar/biomass (even excluding offshore wind) in Flanders alone, amounts to over one billion PER YEAR until at least 2020. Add probably 700 – 800 million for offshore wind. These amounts are mind boggling, especially when we know that it is only part of the costs. And they are making problems for an amount much, much lower than their preferred alternative power sources which are actually increasing our energy bill?

Then they continue with how cheap alternative energy really is (translated from Dutch):

Green power is becoming cheaper year after year. Even without the costs for decommissioning of nuclear plants and the storage of nuclear waste forever radiating, wind is already cheaper than nuclear. Since 2003, the most environmentally friendly suppliers are often the cheapest. Why would you wait to move? We do not deceive you. Do the test and calculate your personal benefit from green power here.

I agree that nuclear energy is expensive on the whole, but alternative energy is very expensive too. If for exampe wind energy is so cheap, then why is there a need to subsidize them in the first place? Sure, wind is dirt cheap .. if we don’t include the need for backup (running suboptimal), non-dispatchable electricity and, if its share is increasing, the need for (expensive) storage.

That the most “environmentally friendly” suppliers are often the cheapest is not because wind energy is cheap, but because our government pays huge amounts of money for it. Money that comes out of our pockets.

But the big elephant in the room is that the current nuclear power is our cheapest energy source. We are in a situation in which those power plants are already there, the investments are already made in the past and written off. In that case the produced energy is currently dirt cheap coming at about €40/MWh, while wind energy is subsidized at an amount of a tad more than €100/kWh. And we should believe that it is nuclear energy that is raising our energy bill? Who are they trying to fool?

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