A UK ‘green’ energy company has accused the British government of “rigging the energy market” in favour of nuclear at the expense of renewables.

The accusation comes following a government announcement that communities living near the eight sites earmarked for new nuclear plants in England and Wales (Scotland has pledged to build no more nuclear facilities) will receive £1,000 per MW in benefit for up to 40 years from power station operators once the plant’s start running.

The sweetener could be worth £128m ($194m) alone to the community at Hinkley Point in Somerset, England, where EDF wants to build a new reactor, but the £1000/MW figure is a fifth of the benefit the government has decided wind power firms should pay in community benefits.

UK Business and Energy Minister Michael Fallon said new nuclear “will have a central role to play in our energy strategy” and added: “It is absolutely essential that we recognise the contributions of those communities that host major new energy projects.”

“This package is in the interests of local people, who will manage it to ensure long-term meaningful benefit to the community.

“It’s proportionate to the scale and lifespan of new nuclear power stations and it builds on the major economic benefits they will bring in terms of jobs, investment and use of local services.”

In July, the government announced that onshore wind farm operators should pay £5,000/MW in community benefit.

Dale Vince (pictured), founder of renewable energy company Ecotricity, which was formed in 1995 and provides residential electricity via wind farms and a solar farm, slammed the proposed nuclear payout.

“This is a further move by the government to rig the energy market against renewables in favour of nuclear and gas.”

He said nuclear was “already being fast-tracked through the planning system and now they’ve announced nuclear will pay a fraction of the community benefit paid by wind power”.

Vince said the government “shouldn’t be picking winners in the energy industry – they should be providing a level playing field for competition. Are they really saying the impact of nuclear power is one fifth that of wind power?”