EDF’s £16bn Somerset nuclear new build project moved a step closer to reality today when Brussels gave the green light to the UK government’s energy subsidy plans.
The European Commission said contracts for difference and a state guarantee on debt to fund the construction project for Hinkley Point C fell within EU state aid rules.
A spokesman for the Commission last month revealed the plans had been recommended for approval, but the Austrian government this week wrote to Brussels opposing the decision.
Commission vice president Joaquín Almunia said today: “After the Commission’s intervention, the UK measures in favour of Hinkley Point nuclear power station have been significantly modified, limiting any distortions of competition in the Single Market.
“These modifications will also achieve significant savings for UK taxpayers. On this basis and after a thorough investigation, the Commission can now conclude that the support is compatible with EU state aid rules.”
Austria’s ministry for science, research and economics this week insisted state aid plans for the Somerset project broke EU law. It said using government subsidies to promote nuclear power would set a bad precedent for the environment.
But UK engineers welcomed the EC’s decision. Hinkley Point C would be the first new nuclear plant to be built in Britain since 1995.
Alasdair Reisner, chief executive of the Civil Engineering Contractors Association, said: “Hinkley Point C represents a hugely important element in securing the UK’s energy security for the future.
“CECA has long argued that the UK’s energy needs will only be met by a mixed portfolio of generation, of which new nuclear power stations will be a vital component.
“We now hope that all involved will work together to move forward with this project, and that work can start without further delay.”