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EDF Remain Bullish on Hinkley Point

edf logoYou have to hand it to EDF Energy, despite all and sundry criticising the largesse of the taxpayer backing for the proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear plant development, the first in 20 years in the UK, and the apparent fraying support from their partners, the French state owned business is “pressing on” with the plans.

EDF Energy Chief Executive Vincent de Rivaz whilst acknowledging the skills crunch and innumerable delays to its similar Flamanville plant in France and the question marks over the viability of the European pressurised reactor (EPR) technology defended the project saying:

“We should be under no illusion that building new nuclear plants has never been easy. We take the construction risk for Hinkley Point C – not the customers. Let us be clear, the cost of Hinkley Point C has not increased by one penny as a result of the delays at Flamanville.”

Whilst De Rivaz explained that legal and other work needed to be completed before EDF could give the final investment decision on Hinkley Point, he remained confident that a positive decision could be made in the first quarter of 2015.

Those final investment decisions however are a long way off with the identity of the final partners still unknown amidst argument and disagreement.

Qatar has appeared as the latest potential partner with Mohammed bin Saleh Al-Sada Qatar’s energy minister saying:

“We are looking at making further energy investments in Europe and the UK” adding that backing the construction of Britain’s first atomic plant in over 25 years was one of the options under review”.

Only recently it was Saudi Electric alongside China General Nuclear Corporation and China National Nuclear Corporation who were favourites for the remaining stakes however demands from the Chinese have placed their involvement and the scale of it in doubt.

Qatar’s influence on the UK energy market is already significant and the Gulf state sees Hinkley Point as another rung in the ladder towards tightening their controlling influence. With long rumoured interest in British Gas’ owner Centrica and Qatar’s existing position as the source of 20% of the UK’s gas supplies with the status of being Britain’s biggest supplier of LNG, an investment in alternative sources makes strategic sense.

Whether however the Hinkley scheme gets as far as investment partners however is still in the balance with a recent YouGov survey revealing that although it had seen an increase in the last decade, only 45% of people were in favour of building new nuclear in the UK.

Whilst that support had grown from 35% ten years ago it comes at a time when the traditionally biggest proponents of nuclear power France, Japan and Germany are hastily retreating from the market in the wake of the Fukishima disaster.

If it comes off then EDF Energy know they’re onto a big thing with Hinkley Point and with the incentives on offer, no wonder De Rivaz remains bullish.

However that ‘if’ is as far away from ‘when’ as ever even now after all this time.