Further delays to EDF's Hinkley Point C nuclear power station is a symptom of bad policy

 
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British Government Signs A Deal For New Nuclear Power Plant
The power station's French owners have reportedly sought government help (Source: Getty)

Well, it is getting on for the end of meteorological winter and we seem to have made it through, or near as damn it, without any major supply-related blackouts.

That is despite warnings (again) last summer that the UK was heading for a winter in which we could be plunged into medieval-style darkness at any moment, with the National Grid suggesting we are facing the “highest risk of blackout in nine years”, as the UK’s crumbling infrastructure struggled to bear the weight of demand.

Then, in November, it looked like it might actually be happening: National Grid called on power generators to generate more electricity after “multiple plant breakdowns”. Consumers remained admirably calm - but the incident did cause the Institute of Directors to point out that the UK’s energy infrastructure is becoming like a “slow-motion traincrash”.

The good news is EDF, the owner of one of the UK’s most ambitious power station projects, finally said yesterday it will begin “definitive construction” of Hinkley Point C. Soonish. By 2019. Probably. It thinks.

In a statement the company said it intends to “proceed rapidly” on construction of the power station. When it comes online, which we hope will be in the mid-2020s, the project will provide low-carbon electricity to 6m homes for around 60 years, creating 25,000 jobs.

Will that happen when we need it? The power station is by no means a done deal. The French-owned company has reportedly sought extra help from the French government to fund the estimated £18bn cost of the plant - despite a deal in October under which the Chinese state nuclear firm, CGN, took a 33.5 per cent stake in the project.

The whole fiasco smacks of bad planning on the government's part, but the truth is energy policy - unsexy as it is - has been neglected for decades. This government likes to point to its predecessors’ lack of foresight when it came to power infrastructure - but even as recently as November, energy secretary Amber Rudd blithely announced the last of the UK’s coal-fired stations will close altogether by 2025. Just in time for Hinkley Point C to come online. Fingers crossed...

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