The completion of the £18 billion Hinkley Point power station in Somerset has been thrown into doubt when the government decided to put the project on hold, only hours after developer EDF had given it the go-ahead.
The South West reactor was supposed to be Britain’s first new nuclear plant in a generation, but Greg Clark, the business and energy secretary, said in a statement that a final decision will now be delayed until the autumn to allow policymakers to properly study the project.
“The UK government believes that nuclear energy is an important part of the mix,” he stated. There will be a final decision in early September, once the government has properly considered all of the project’s components.”
However, while appreciating the need to study the contract further, Josh Hardie, CBI deputy director-general, said the government “must press ahead to finalise the deal as soon as possible.”
“Ensuring a secure, low-carbon, and affordable energy supply is a major investment challenge for the UK,” he said. In order for us to know that the UK is open for business, we need to see clear and quick decisions made.
“In particular, investors need to know more about the next Contracts for Difference auction and the Levy Control Framework after 2020, so they can have more confidence.”
As Bircham Dyson Bell partner Angus Walker put it, “very significant moment for the future of the UK’s energy supply.”
He said: “Although former Secretary of State Amber Rudd declared in April that the lights would stay on even if Hinkley did not go ahead, there must be significant relief around the cabinet table that an additional seven per cent of low carbon energy will be created in the next 10 years.
“This also implies that EDF’s next project Sizewell will get going, and the possibility of a ‘energy crunch’ (demand outstripping supply) will have faded for the time being.”
On Thursday, EDF’s board of directors accepted the final investment decision to develop the two nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point C.
A spokesperson for EDF said: “The HPC Project is a major element of the Group’s CAP 2030 strategy. The two EPR reactors at Hinkley Point will boost EDF’s footprint in the United Kingdom, where its affiliate EDF Energy already operates 15 nuclear reactors and is the largest energy supplier by volume.”
Hardie stated in response to EDF’s approval for the nuclear plant’s development, “The final green light for Hinkley Point is welcome news, as action on critical infrastructure projects that attract investment to the United Kingdom is needed now more than ever.”
“The project is an important milestone in the energy future of the United Kingdom. It will play a significant role in further safeguarding and decarbonising our energy supply, putting us on the correct path to a sustainable energy mix.
It’s our aim that this will also help kick-start a new nuclear build programme, producing jobs for tens of thousands of people — not only in the local neighbourhood, but across the entire country.”