Centrica anticipates power boost as EDF extends lifespan of ageing nuclear fleet
British Gas owner Centrica expects to boost its electricity generation volume with another six terawatt hours between 2024 and 2026, following EDF’s decision to extend the lifespan of two nuclear power stations.
This equates to roughly 70 per cent of Centrica’s total nuclear power volume in 2022.
EDF revealed last week that the Heysham 1 and Hartlepool nuclear power stations are now expected to close in March 2026, two years later than originally planned.
Centrica holds a 20 per cent stake in the UK’s nuclear plants through a joint venture with EDF Energy’s parent company – which is now owned by the French state.
Chris O’Shea, chief executive of Centrica, said: “I’m delighted we’ve been able to work with EDF to strengthen the UK’s energy security by extending the life of these critical power stations. We will continue to focus on supporting energy security in our core markets during these uncertain times.”
EDF Energy operates the UK’s entire ageing nuclear fleet – consisting of eight reactorsH – and will play a key role in the industry’s planned revival.
It will manage Hinkley Point C, which is set for completion in 2027, and Sizewell C which awaits a final investment decision before construction can begin.
The latest reprieve for Heysham 1 and Hartlepool will give the nuclear industry more time to settle on a revival plan for the sector with the current fleet set for decommission over the next two decades.
The government is targeting a ramp up in nuclear power generation from 7GW to 24GW over the next three decades as part of its energy security strategy, aimed at reducing the UK’s reliance on overseas vendors to meet its supply needs and climate goals.
However, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is preparing to rewrite parts of the strategy – which was published under Boris Johnson’s administration – in a bid to make the UK a world leader in mini nuclear reactors alongside plans to ramp up carbon capture and storage.
Speaking on a visit to the US, Sunak said: “Shortly we will be outlining in the energy security strategy an approach forward in some of the other areas we have been talking about, whether that is carbon capture and storage, small modular reactors and the like.”
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Sunak to back SMR ramp-up
Small modular nuclear reactors are constructed in factories and are transported to construction sites, making them cheaper and quicker to build.
Ahead of the Budget, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt revealed the government would begin a competition to select designs to be built in the UK.
It said: “Small modular reactors [SMRs] are emerging technology, and no country has yet deployed one. To ensure the UK steals the march, the small nuclear reactors competition is expected to attract the best designs from both domestic and international manufacturers.”
This announcement was a surprise, as a UK consortium led by Rolls-Royce had already secured £210m of taxpayer backing and had been pushing for its design would be fast-tracked.
Rolls-Royce announced its own final shortlist its proposed nuclear pipeline of small modular reactors in December last year.
Its three sites include the International Advanced Manufacturing Park (IAMP) in South Tyneside, Teesworks in Teesside and Gateway in Deeside.
A decision on the location is expected to be made this year following final evaluations.
Its designs are for a 470MW plant at a cost of around £2bn – with each site powering one million homes.