While at the time of writing there has been no official statement from the EC, EDF or the British government, there are reports that a deal has been done to make the government’s financial support of the project palatable to state aid commissioners.
Antoine Colombani, a spokesman for Competition Commissioner Joaquín Almunia, told UK newspaper The Telegraph: “Our discussions with the UK authorities led to an agreement. On this basis, vice-president Almunia will propose to the college of commissioners to take a positive decision in this case. In principle a decision should be taken within this mandate.”
If the EU has indeed given the green light to Hinkley, it ends months of uncertainty while the project was dissected by state aid experts in Brussels.
At the heart of the competition probe was the UK government’s guarantee to pay EDF £92.50 per MWh for electricity generated by Hinkley C, which would be built next to Hinkley’s two existing reactors in Somerset.
And the go-ahead for Hinkley would also kick-start proceedings on another seven new reactor sites earmarked across England and Wales, as well as give European endorsement to the UK government’s contract-for-difference scheme, part of its Electricity Market Reform package.
While news of the EU approval will be welcomed by many, it was immediately slammed today by Greenpeace EU legal adviser Andrea Carta, who said that if the project was indeed going ahead, “it risks a backroom deal prevailing over the rule of law”.
He added: “Only a year ago the commission said that Hinkley was “in principle incompatible under EU State aid rules”. Now, under pressure from the UK government and French nuclear operator EDF, the commission is preparing to perform a U-turn.
“European commissioners should oppose the plan and resist rushing through a controversial and far-reaching decision in the dying weeks of this commission.”