The French state auditor has raised fresh doubts about plans to build the world’s most expensive nuclear power plant in Somerset by urging EDF, the energy company, to ask “serious questions” before going ahead. The Cour des Comptes rang alarm bells over the complexity of both funding and carrying out the £18 billion project at Hinkley Point. It urged Paris and EDF, which is 85 per cent owned by the French state, to think hard about whether it should proceed, citing “financial stress”. The warning came as China, which is paying for a third of the power station, expressed anger over the delays to the project. The Times has learnt that Chinese officials demanded a meeting at the French embassy in Beijing to discuss the situation. The row is embarrassing for President Xi, who witnessed the signing of the deal during his state visit to Britain last year. China fears that the cancellation of the project would threaten its ambitions to export more technology to the West. One industry executive in Beijing said: “They have been into the French embassy this week to express their irritation at delays far beyond expectations.” Yesterday, the Cour des Comptes – the equivalent of Britain’s National Audit Office, scrutinising the public accounts and providing an independent assessment – warned EDF that the project could suffer expensive delays. Similar projects in Finland and at Flamanville in France have run billions of euros over budget and are years behind schedule. Roger Witcomb, who has led an 18-month investigation into Britain’s energy market by the Competition and Markets Authority, told The Times he was concerne d that British officials involved in the negotiations had not fully considered the impact on consumers’ bills. Under the deal, electricity from the power station will be bought at £92.50 per megawatt hour for 35 years. The present market price is £33.
Times 11th March 2016 read more »
FT 10th March 2016 read more »
The auditor said EDF’s high debt and negative cash flow limit its capacity to invest abroad, especially in light of the huge sums needed to upgrade its ageing French nuclear fleet.
Reuters 10th March 2016 read more »
France’s top audit body has warned utility firm EDF that its investment in a project to build the UK’s first nuclear power plant in three decades is potentially risky. In a report assessing EDF’s financial performance, the Cour des Comptes urged the state-backed firm to carefully review its plans to build two new reactors at Hinkley Point at an estimated cost of £18bn (€23bn; $26bn). The energy company is reported to be struggling to raise the £12bn it needs to build the power plant, with French union officials calling for the final investment decision to be pushed back by three years. EDF’s share price has plummeted by half over the past year amid rising debt and falling electricity prices.
IB Times 11th March 2016 read more »
France’s top audit body has said the financing scheme for EDF’s $25.6billion project to build two nuclear plants in the UK could be potentially risky. The Cour des Comptes said returns on those investments have been systematically lower than those on its French nuclear fleet. The auditor also said both the company and the French state should take a look at the risk involved with the project. The report also analysed EDF’s agreement made in 2013 with the UK government but not its 2015 deal with the Chinese utility CGN to take a one-third stake. The report said the Hinkley Point project also raised serious questions about its possible impact on EDF.
Energy Voice 10th March 2016 read more »
When George Osborne, touring China in September, announced the UK’s commitment to a new power station at Hinkley Point, he intended it as a cornerstone of Britain’s drive for Chinese investment. No matter that, the following month, protesters inflated a giant white elephant near the site for a visit by Xi Jinping, China’s president. The costs and the technical uncertainty of Hinkley C should have been decisive in prompting ministers to find another way. The plans make a nonsense of Britain’s fitful attempts to give itself an energy policy. Instead they promise unnecessarily expensive energy for consumers and businesses. Worse, progressing with this design would be a lost chance to help along the evolution of nuclear power stations in many countries, not just Britain, as the world edges towards the next generation of cheaper, more efficient and safer nuclear power. Ministers say that if Hinkley C is not built, there is a risk of electricity shortages. The UK’s last coal-fired power stations close in 2025. That risk is real. But a better way to address it would be buy smaller nuclear stations of proven design or gas-fired ones, while waiting for new nuclear models to get established and for the volume of orders to push the price down. EDF’s discomfort offers that rarest of opportunities — an escape route with minimal embarrassment (and no costs to the UK from ending the contract). Mr Osborne, who has advertised his willingness to make U-turns “after listening”, should take it.
FT 10th March 2016 read more »
Letter Dr Paul Dorfman: What was to be the most expensive power plant on earth is now an enormously costly landscaping project, and all concerned are looking for an honourable way out. If old EDF reactors can carry on for a bit longer, then valuable time can be bought. And, predictably, EDF has just announced that it will extend the “life-span” of its nuclear reactor fleet in the UK. The only questions that remain are: who will deliver the coup de grâce, and where do we go now? Because designing and building new nuclear power stations is so expensive, oil prices are bottoming out and fossil fuels are passé and no longer offer strong returns, we have reached a tipping point. Energy needs to work as a whole system. For the sake of UK plc, we need to turn the page on a bad deal and a bad reactor. It takes political courage to reflect and change, but it is clearly in the national interest for the Treasury to sift new evidence and come to a responsible decision.
Times 10th March 2016 read more »
Letter Maf Smith, Deputy CEO, RenewableUK: Your leader “Nuclear Disaster” stated that the level of financial support envisaged for Hinkley C (£92.50 per megawatt hour in 2025) is similar to the level for onshore wind. This isn’t the case. Under the government’s system of competitive power auctions, all new onshore wind projects came out at between £79.23 and £82.50 per megawatt hour, and delivering before 2020. Renewables receive 15 years support in comparison with nuclear power’s 35 years.
Times 10th March 2016 read more »
FORMER Kingston MP Ed Davey has accused the Conservative Party of trying to shift blame onto him after plans to build an £18bn nuclear power plant he negotiated were widely criticised. Mr Davey was at the forefront of talks between the former coalition government and French utility company EDF to build the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant in Somerset while Energy Secretary in 2013.
Kingston Guardian 11th March 2016 read more »
EU anti-trust regulators on Thursday cleared a partnership between French power company EDF and Chinese nuclear firm CGN to build nuclear power plants in Britain, including the controversial Hinkley Point project. Hinkley Point, which EDF will build in partnership with CGN, will be Britain’s first nuclear power plant in decades and one of the world’s most expensive, with a projected cost of GBP 18 billion (23.2 billion euros, $25.5 billion). “The Commission’s investigation found that competition in the wholesale supply of electricity in the UK will not be hindered by the transaction given the moderate market share of EDF, the very limited market shares of CGN in this market and the presence of other competitors,” the European Commission said in an email sent to AFP.
EU Business 10th March 2016 read more »
Reuters 10th March 2016 read more »
Ministers have been urged to commit to plans for a huge tidal energy lagoon to keep the lights on in the UK, amid mounting concerns about whether the Hinkley Point nuclear power station will ever get built. MPs and peers are applying pressure for the government to get behind the tidal power project, saying it is an essential “plan B” to ensure energy security. The Conservatives committed to the Swansea Bay tidal project in their Welsh election manifesto, but there are strong signs that government backing for the scheme is cooling due to the level of subsidies it would need. After it emerged there was still no legally binding contract for EDF and its Chinese partners to invest in Hinkley Point, Lynne Featherstone, a peer and former coalition minister, claimed the tidal scheme would last for longer than a nuclear station and ensure security of supply. She told the House of Lords: “The finance director of EDF has quit; the value of EDF shares is falling; and EDF does not have a legally binding contract with the Chinese. “If it does not proceed with Hinkley Point, what is the government’s plan B for the security of our energy supply in future years, given that the support for renewables industries has been completely undermined by the government and that there is still no commitment to the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon, which would provide energy for 120 years – three times as long as would a nuclear power station?”
Guardian 10th March 2016 read more »
MOLLY Scott Cato MEP, the Green Party’s economic speaker, has written to the Commission asking it to investigate whether a proposed rescue plan for Hinkley C nuclear power station is in breach of European state aid rules. At a Franco-British summit last week, David Cameron and Francois Hollande released a joint statement re-committing to the building of a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point in Somerset, calling the project a ‘pillar in the two countries’ bilateral relationship’ and a key element of energy policy. However, last Sunday, the EDF finance director resigned and subsequently shares in the company plummeted. EDF, in which the French government have an 85% stake, is the company due to build two new reactors at Hinkley Point. It has been reported that, rather than taking dividends out of EDF the French government has been buying shares to recapitalise the company. Molly Scott Cato, with the support of five other MEPs, has put in a ‘priority’ request to the Commission, indicating it needs urgent answers. She is MEP for the South West constituency in which Hinkley would be built and is a long-time opponent of the project. She said: “The numbers for the Hinkley deal have never been made to stack up and the resignation of EDF’s finance director makes it clear that he refused to give in to political pressure and abandon the shareholders to whom he is actually responsible. It is clear that the commercial case for Hinkley is dead. We have now a political battle where the stakes for both the UK and France are just too high to admit failure. But we cannot let this override EU rules on state aid or fair competition”.
Molly Scott Cato MEP 10th March 2016 read more »
Charles Hendry told delegates at an event in London that the consequences for nuclear would be “very challenging” if EDF didn’t press ahead with the Hinkley project. “It doesn’t mean that other companies couldn’t come forward but if state owned entities couldn’t make it happen then what are the prospects for private companies,” he added. “If nuclear was found to be unaffordable to invest in the United Kingdom, there [would be] a whopping great big hole in energy policy.”
Utility Week 10th March 2016 read more »
THE former project director of EDF Hinkley Point C has hit back at claims he left the company as he did not ‘have full faith’ in the project, in a letter to the Times newspaper. Chris Bakken also states that abandoning Hinkley as a form of future electricity would jeopardise ‘jobs for the 25,000 people who will work on its construction.’
This is the West Country 10th March 2016 read more »