The government’s unexpected decision to review the Hinkley Point C project after EDF’s board approved the final investment case will cause unwelcome uncertainty, according to civil engineers.
On Thursday EDF Energy finally decided to go ahead with its investment for the £18bn Hinkley Point C nuclear power station in Somerset.
But hours after the announcement, business and energy secretary Greg Clark said the government is to review the deal and make a decision in the autumn.
He said: “The UK needs a reliable and secure energy supply and the government believes that nuclear energy is an important part of the mix. The government will now consider carefully all the component parts of this project and make its decision in the early autumn.”
Over the weekend it has been reported that Prime Minister Theresa May has concerns about the involvement of the China General Nuclear Corporation (CGN).
The Civil Engineering Contractors Association (Ceca), whose members include companies including Kier and Bam which are lined up to work on the project, has warned against more uncertainty. Its head of external affairs Marie-Claude Hemming said: “Ceca has long campaigned for a long-term energy strategy based on a mixed portfolio of low carbon generation. New nuclear power must be central to that approach.
“EDF’s decision ends years of uncertainty for the UK’s nuclear supply chain, and will allow industry to move towards delivery of this vital project.
“Moreover, it will deliver highly skilled jobs over a sustained period of time, driving economic growth.
“Yet the government’s decision to postpone its final decision on the project, will create great uncertainty in the construction sector and the wider business sphere.
“Maintaining the security of the UK’s energy supply is fundamental to ensuring our economy remains one of the largest in the world. Any deviation from this path will have severe ramifications for our economic and social growth.”
The GMB union’s national secretary for energy Justin Bowden said the decision made no sense and was causing confusion.
He said: “Theresa May’s decision to review the go-ahead on Hinkley Point C is bewildering and bonkers. After years of procrastination, what is required is decisive action not dithering and more delay. This unnecessary hesitation is putting finance for the project in doubt and 25,000 new jobs at risk immediately after Brexit. It is a gross error of judgement and must be reversed.”
He went on to warn: “The ramifications of this foolish delay are far wider than putting our energy needs in jeopardy, they will immediately call into question other major infrastructure projects coming down the line like High Speed 2 and Heathrow or Gatwick expansion.”
Meanwhile CBI deputy director general Josh Hardie said a timely decision was crucial. He said: “While it is understandable the government wants to get to grips with the details of the Hinkley contract, it must press ahead to finalise the deal as soon as possible.
“The UK is facing a major investment challenge to ensure a secure, low-carbon and affordable energy supply. It’s crucial that we see clear and timely decisions, and send a definite message that the UK is well and truly open for business.
“In particular, clarity is needed around the next Contracts for Difference auction and the post-2020 Levy Control Framework, to build investor confidence.”