The resignation of EDF’s chief financial officer is being seen in some quarters as providing yet more evidence that the Hinkley Point C nuclear project is doomed, however a leading economist believes the opposite may be the case.
The French utility confirmed Thomas Piquemal (right), its finance director, has quit ahead of an expected final investment decision on the £18bn Hinkley Point nuclear power plant. Sources close to the company say Piquemal was heavily resistant to the project going ahead and feared the project could jeopardise EDF‘s financial position.
Kamal Ahmed, BBC Economics Editor believes the resignation to be a positive in terms of the project going ahead.
“For supporters of the building of the £18bn nuclear power station in Somerset – the world’s most expensive power project – the resignation of Thomas Piquemal looks like clearing the way for the EDF board to give the final go-ahead for the scheme.”
“Mr Piquemal was widely reported as being a trenchant critic of the costly nuclear project. His fate appears to have been sealed last week when the French government, which largely owns EDF, confirmed that it is still backing the scheme.”
That came after the meeting between Francois Hollande and David Cameron – also an enthusiastic backer. On this occasion, political will has trumped any financial concerns.”
The project’s detractors say the resignation, coming soon after the UK’s chief project director, Chris Bakken, also quit, pointed to the worst case scenario, as far as the British government is concerned. That and the continual postponement of the final investment decision seems to have further increased the scepticism surrounding the project.
The project has been plagued by delays, but publicly the firm has insisted a decision to move forward is imminent, and a temporary replacement to Mr Piquemal has been appointed.
In a statement, group chairman Jean Bernard Levy said, “Thomas Piquemal told me of his resignation last week, which was made public last night. I regret the haste of his departure, and I immediately appointed Xavier Girre to the position of CFO on a provisional basis.”
“With the support of its shareholder, the state, EDF can confirm that it is looking to invest in two reactors at Hinkley Point under the best possible financial conditions for the Group, with the objective of making a final investment decision in the near future “added the CEO.
“EDF relies on very strong operational results, the internal transformation and the savings plans launched in 2015, and on investments in support of the energy transition and the renewal of the nuclear industry.”
Later on Monday afternoon both the British and French governments saw fit to make further statements of reassurance on the health of the project.
Asked about Mr Piquemal’s reported departure, David Cameron’s official spokeswoman said: “I’m not going to speculate on the resignation of one individual. That is a matter for EDF. We continue to fully support the project and President Hollande said himself on Thursday afternoon that it has the full support of the French government.”
“The French government are in discussions with EDF on this. They’ve been clear that they fully support this, and now we wait for the next stage, which is the financial investment decision. The discussions under way are regarding support from the French government.”
Meanwhile in Paris, Emmanuel Macron, Economy Minister told the press, “We also reiterate our full support for the Hinkley Point project – an important project for EDF”.