Largely state-owned energy company EDF announced this week that it plans to make the final decision on the future of the Hinkley Point nuclear power plant next week.
EDF’s board of directors will meet on the 28th of July, and that the final investment decision will be made then, after much back and forth and questioning from executives and unions over whether or not the decision should be brought forward or delayed.
Critics argued that the cost of the plant – now expected to be around £18 billion – would put too much of a burden on EDF’s already stretched finances, and that as such the final decision should be delayed at least until September, with some calling for a three year wait.
As well as financing issues, some unions were concerned with the reactor designs at the core of Hinkley, after various failure and delays at other plants built with the same design.
EDF initially agreed, and in April they announced that they would be pushing the decision back to September but, as of Thursday evening, they have brought the date forward.
EDF explained that they felt that bringing the decision forward, and getting the ball rolling on the project as soon as possible was integral for growing EDF’s nuclear presence in the UK, and for the future of the company as a whole.
EDF explained: “The two reactors at Hinkley Point would strengthen EDF’s presence in Britain, a country where its subsidiary EDF Energy already operates 15 nuclear reactors and is the largest electricity supplier by volume.”
The plant, they said, would be “a unique asset for French industry as it would benefit the whole of the nuclear industry and support employment in major companies and smaller enterprises in the sector”.
The re-shuffled UK government has reiterated its support for Hinkley, with new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, echoing his predecessor George Osborne saying that despite “an atmosphere of uncertainty” surrounding it, “we have to make sure the project goes ahead.”
And Greg Clark, head of the newly formed Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (formed from a merger between the Department for Energy and Climate Change and the Department for Business, Skills and Innovation), also threw his support behind the project.
He said: “New nuclear is an essential part of our plan for a secure, clean and affordable energy system that will power the economy throughout this century. This is a welcome decision from EDF, and we look forward to the outcome.”
The UK government has agreed a price of £92.50 per mega watt hour to be paid for the energy produced at Hinkley. However, since the wholesale costs of energy have fallen in the three years since that price was agreed, the cost of the bill footed by the government in subsidies has gone up, with some estimates for the cost of the shortfall going as high as £29.7 billion.