A sharp fall in the cost of wind energy should mark the end of plans to build a major nuclear power plant, according to Green Party leader Caroline Lucas.
Experts say windfarm developers may secure guaranteed payments from a government subsidy pot for power as low as £70-80 per megawatt hour - a drop of up to £50 per hour compared to two years ago and lower in cost than the planned Hinkley Point C station in Somerset.
Successful bids for the Contracts for Difference Allocation Round - essentially an auction of slices of government funding for energy projects - were announced on Monday.
Greens co-leader Caroline Lucas said the price drop for greener energy should be “the nail in the coffin” for nuclear power.
“While clean, green wind power has the potential to seriously cut people’s bills - the government’s undying commitment to new nuclear risks locking us into sky high prices for years to come,” she said.
“Put simply, this news should be the death knell for Hinkley.
“The government should now commit to this technology - and scale up investment in offshore wind so that it becomes the backbone of British energy.
“Such a move wouldn’t just add to the thousands of jobs in the sector already, but would lock us into a low-carbon, low-price energy future that would benefit consumers and businesses for years to come.”
It emerged during the summer that Hinkley Point is already £1.5bn over-budget and a year behind schedule. Developers EDF said they had expected the new plant to be up and running by 2025.
According to RenewableUK, the green energy trade association, the cost of offshore wind has plummeted since the last competitive auction results were announced in February 2015, with the new prices on average 47% lower than they were just over two and half years ago.
Latest figures from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy show they are cheaper than the cost of the 35-year contracts for new nuclear power of £92.50 per megawatt hour, and cheaper than the levelised cost of gas.
RenewableUK chief executive Hugh McNeal said: “We knew today’s results would be impressive, but these are astounding. Record-breaking cost reductions like the ones achieved by offshore wind are unprecedented for large energy infrastructure.
“Offshore wind developers have focused relentlessly on innovation, and the sector is investing £17.5bn into the UK over the next 4 years whilst saving our consumers money.
“It is further proof that innovation in the offshore wind industry will bring economic growth for the UK on an industrial scale. The UK needs to establish new trading opportunities as we leave the European Union, and the UK’s offshore wind sector is a world leader in a global renewable energy market currently worth $290 billion a year.”
He said the government should put offshore wind energy at the heart of its industrial strategy - but no firm commitments have been made.