Business Leader: The Hinkley farce – which has been running since last October, when the final sign-off was due within weeks – could yet roll on and on. The UK government is disinclined to set a deadline: it’s a “commercial decision” for EDF. Meanwhile, the current French government could have a radically different shape this time next year – there is a presidential election in 2017 and the incumbent, François Hollande, is the least popular leader in modern French history. French union opposition to Hinkley Point appears entrenched and the workers’ representatives have six seats on an 18-strong board. To embark on an £18bn venture with a divided boardroom would invite trouble down the line. That is especially so when you remember EDF’s last finance director, Thomas Piquemal, resigned over concerns that Hinkley could threaten the company’s future. The best thing the UK government could do at this point is to stop and consider whether the obstacles facing Hinkley are simply too big. There are other ways to meet the legally binding emissions targets. Offshore wind is expanding with no Hinkley-style fuss, and its costs are falling. More importantly for the UK’s requirement for secure baseload supplies, other builders are waiting to pursue projects that use different nuclear technology. In theory, planning and appraisal can continue in parallel; in practice, confidence in the UK’s commitment to its new-nuclear programme will drain away. The Hinkley show is becoming an embarrassment. The project is expensive, uses unproven technology and its builder is a disunited and over-borrowed company that requires constant financial assurances from an ever-changing cast of politicians. The UK government should set EDF a deadline and be ready to enforce it. We can do better – much better – than Hinkley.
Observer 29th May 2016 read more »