EDF and the UK government are in discussions about potential liability should Austria wins its challenge to the European Commission decision facilitating the development of Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant.
The contingency talks on who will pick up the costs were held this week according to the Daily Telegraph.
Plans for the £16bn Hinkley Point C plant received state aid clearance from the European Commission last year but Austria has vowed to challenge this, alleging that subsidies for the project constitute illegal state aid.
Although the Government and EDF both insist the appeal, expected to be lodged this week, has no merit, it is understood they are yet to agree on what would happen in the unlikely event Austria does win.
Andrea Leadsom, the new energy minister, said on Tuesday at the Nuclear Industry Association’s annual conference that the Government was “looking very closely” at the issue of how the project could go ahead with a state aid challenge ongoing.
Austria’s state aid appeal is likely to hang over the project for as long as five to eight years – during which time billions of pounds would be spent on construction.
Ms Leadsom said ministers “don’t believe [the challenge] will be successful”. Asked who would bear the costs in the worst case scenario that it was, she said: “We don’t think that the Austrian challenge has merit and we will be continuing as far as we are possibly able, whilst bearing in mind any risks to consumers. We are formulating our plan right now.”
While a successful outcome for Austria is the least likely, it may have a severely adverse impact on investors in the Hinkley Point C project.
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