The latest report from EDF had increased the projected cost of the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station to £19.6 billion, up from the previous estimate of £18.1 billion.
This latest increase puts the cost of the plant £2.6 billion higher than the initial figure of £16 billion quoted when the project was in its nascent stages back in 2012. EDF also reported that there is a reasonable likelihood of another 15 month delay to the 2025 completion date. This delay would add a further £700 million to the cost, but can hopefully be avoided, EDF claim.
Even the 2025 target could prove problematic, however, given that Hinkley is intended to plug some of the gap left by the closure of all UK coal power stations by 2020.
Delays and price increases have become characteristic of Hinkley Point’s rocky road toward completion. The project has been criticised by campaigners from various groups, largely because of these ever increasing cost of its construction.
Greenpeace UK’s executive director, John Sauven, said: “Hinkley is already over time and over budget after just a few months of building work.
“Today’s news is yet another damning indictment of the government’s agreement to go ahead with this project.”
The bill for building the plant will be footed by EDF Energy, and by Chinese state-owned nuclear firm CGN. However once completed, the British taxpayers will be paying for the energy produced, and at an above average price of £92.50 per MWh. This price was agreed at a point when wholesale prices generally were higher, and has partly been justified by the fact that all construction costs are being covered by the companies behind the project. That has not, however, meant that it has escaped the crosshairs of critics.
The Green Party’s Jonathan Bartley, for example, said: “The government’s proposals are a rip off for taxpayers and consumers, and suck resources from where they are really needed: investing in clean energy and fighting climate change. This [these latest cost increases] should be the final nail in the coffin for Hinkley.”
The government and others still maintain the legitimacy of Hinkley Point despite delays and increasing costs. This is because, once complete, it is set to provide as much as 7% of the UK’s entire energy supply for more than half a century.
Further development of nuclear power is, according to this narrative, essential in order to maintain a secure and (largely) environmentally friendly energy supply for the UK. Particular, that is, when combined with the country’s ever growing fleet of renewable generators. Last month, for example, there was a period one Sunday during which 70% of the electricity supply in the UK came from either nuclear or renewable sources. Regularly, there are multiple hour periods during which no electricity drawn from fossil fuels is used.