Fears for Hinkley as EDF postpone investment decision

The board of EDF has called off a final decision on whether to progress with investment in Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant amid speculation that the company lacks the funds to finance its share of the project.

EDF is lobbying the French government to approve fresh funds for the UK plant, according to Les Echos newspaper. The final investment decision had been expected to be a formality up until the reports emerging on Tuesday of the company’s funding difficulties.

In October, EDF agreed a deal with China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) to pay a third of the cost of the à‚£18bn project in exchange for a 33.5 per cent stake. But Les Echos said the French firm was struggling to find the cash for its 66.5 per cent stake and was now “putting pressure on the [French] state, which owns 84.5 per cent of EDF, to come up with fresh funds”.
EDF has already had to reassure unions who expressed the belief that the project could jeopardise the company’s survival.

The reports contradict recent statements from EDF chief executive Jean-Bernard Levy who said just a week ago that the “two nuclear reactors that EDF plans to build at Hinkley Point will be launched very soon”.

It said a final investment decision would now be made at the earliest at EDF’s annual results on 16 February.

Hinkley is due to start generating in 2025, and is expected to provide 7% of the UK’s electricity once it is operational.

Environmental groups are proclaiming the news as evidence that the project will not go ahead.

Greenpeace executive director John Sauven said: “The EDF board is clearly rattled as they delay yet again this crucial investment decision. It could well signal curtains for Hinkley.”

“EDF managers as well as employee representatives on the board are deeply concerned this project is too risky and too expensive.”

Meanwhile ClientEarth lawyer Susan Shaw told Power Engineering International: “We can only hope this delay is a sign that sense is finally being seen. We hope EDF is reconsidering, and call on the UK government to base its policy decisions on sound science and economics, not political machinations.à‚ We need energy efficiency to be top of the agenda and a more consistent approach to subsidies. Throwing more nuclear or fossil fuel generation into Britain’s energy mix is not a long-term or cost-effective solution.”

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