March 24, 2016
Burnham-On-Sea's MP puts EDF boss on spot over Hinkley delays

EDF has vowed "categorically" that the Hinkley Point nuclear plant near Burnham-On-Sea will go ahead, dismissing expert claims that it would be in the public's interest to scrap the £18bn project.

Vincent de Rivaz, chief executive of UK division EDF Energy told MPs on the Energy Select Committee on Wednesday (March 23rd) that a long-delayed decision on the controversial project would be taken "very soon" and insisted it would be "good news" for the UK.

He highlighted comments by French economy minister Emmanuel Macron, who said on Tuesday that he expected a final investment decision by "early May", but drew exasperation from MPs by refusing to explicitly confirm EDF’s own expectation of a decision date.

Asked by Burnham-On-Sea's MP James Heappey why it is "reasonable for us to assume it but not reasonable for you to just say it", Mr de Rivaz responded: "I am very pleased to give you the privilege to make the assumption and to draw the right conclusion as you have done."

Cash-strapped EDF is in negotiations with the French government, its majority shareholder, to secure more financial support to enable it to proceed with the Somerset nuclear plant.

Mr de Rivaz, right, said that EDF was facing the challenge of making "huge investments" across the group at a time when power prices had dropped "dramatically", putting more strain on its finances.

Discussions to come up with a "combination of solutions" were now "in the final stage" and were likely to include further cost-efficiency measures, disposal of non-strategic assets and the French state accepting EDF dividends paid in shares and not cash.

He confirmed that the measures would not require any further input from the UK government, which has already committed consumers to pay subsidies to the power plant for 35 years and offered EDF a £2bn loan guarantee.

EDF has so far invested £2.4bn in preparatory works for the nuclear plant and is spending £55m a month on the project.

The comments have been welcomed by Councillor David Hall, Deputy Leader of Somerset County Council, Steve Hindley, Chair of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership and Dale Edwards, Chief Executive of Somerset Chamber of Commerce.

Cllr Hall said: "It is clear to see now just how close EDF Energy and the British and French governments are to that all important final investment decision. The committee meeting and the recent support for Hinkley Point C shown by both governments give us confidence that a positive decision will be made very soon."

"Somerset County Council and HotSW LEP continue to work together in support of a Final Investment Decision for the Hinkley Point C site in Bridgwater."

Chair of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, Steve Hindley, added: "A green light for the Hinkley development will be of regional and national importance, positioning the Heart of the South West as the market leader for the UK’s future energy security."

"We are looking to the Government and EDF Energy to continue their efforts to help achieve that final investment decision soon."

"The LEP’s role is to drive economic growth, and Hinkley Point has the potential to have a huge impact - generating £20bn investment with 60% projected supply chain opportunities, creating 25,000 jobs during construction and £100m a year for the regional economy."

Somerset Chamber Chief Executive, Dale Edwards added: "Whilst we await the final investment decision from EDF Energy, we are continually working behind the scenes with partners and businesses, helping to get local suppliers 'Hinkley ready' so that they are in a strong position to bid for and win future contracts."


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