Hinkley finally gets go-ahead from EDF, but UK ministers delay

The energy industry has reacted with confusion over the UK Government’s surprise move to postpone its final decision over the proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear power station until the autumn.

French power company EDF Energy took its final investment decision to proceed with the £18 billion project in Somerset but, within hours, UK Business Secretary Greg Clark said that the new Conservative government would “consider carefully” before backing the scheme.

Trade body Energy UK said: “The energy industry needs a consistent policy environment to plan and bring on the full range of generation projects necessary to maintain a reliable and sustainable energy supply. Billions of pounds from within and outside the UK economy are ready to be invested.

“A new government, should assure themselves about the benefits of the deal they are signing up to. We trust government will come to a prompt decision on Hinkley Point C and confirm its approach on generation capacity as a matter of priority.”

Some media reports suggested that concerns over China’s involvement in such a key UK infrastructure project were a factor in the government’s decision. In a report following the announcement, China's official news agency said the UK’s “suspicious approach” could risk deterring future Chinese investment.

‘Quickly endorse’

Tom Greatrex, former Labour Shadow Energy Minister and now Chief Executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, said: “The Government’s decision to take longer to look at the contract does not change the fundamentals – that by 2030, two-thirds of our electricity generation capacity will have retired, and we need to replace it with low carbon and reliable power for the future to improve our energy security and meet our commitments on carbon emissions targets.

“The most important thing is that the board of EDF and its investors have the finance in place to enable them to give the go ahead for the project and that is very good news. We have a strong UK supply chain which has built up its capability and has trained people so they are able to build and operate Hinkley Point C.

“We now need the new ministers to quickly endorse the decision to show they are serious about industrial strategy, building new infrastructure by securing inward investment to create our low carbon energy supplies of the future.”

Claire Jacobson, Head of Climate, Energy & Environment Policy at the EEF manufacturers’ trade body, added that the UK G0vernment’s move was “yet another blow to a decision that has been hindered by many delays and uncertainties”.

‘Energy world has fundamentally changed’

Commenting on EDF’s final investment decision, Nina Skorupska, Chief Executive of the Renewable Energy Association, said: “This decision defies logic, the energy world has fundamentally changed in the decade since the decision on new nuclear was made and the fundamentals of this project no longer stack up.

“In those ten years, nuclear costs have rocketed, whilst the price of renewables have dropped spectacularly and from a standing start now produce 25% of the UKs generation.”

John Sauven, Executive Director at environmental charity Greenpeace, added: “This government should be supporting renewable energy companies whose power plants are safe, quicker to build and coming down in cost.”

> See EDF's statement