EDF boss Vincent de Rivaz threw down the gauntlet to government today over the future of nuclear power by suggesting nuclear investment was not a done deal.
Speaking at an Energy Select Committee hearing into the challenges ahead for building new nuclear the chief executive of EDF Energy said: “We have workers with high visibility jackets standing ready to go to work on our side. The responsibility now is on government to deliver”.
The French energy giant is waiting to make its final investment decision about the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant in Somerset.
Just before the hearing finished, Mr de Rivaz got in a final word. Leaving the big question hanging, he declared: “This decision is not yet taken and government has its role to play. Sooner or later there will be good news for security of supply, decarbonisation, jobs, good news for Great Britain.”
Earlier, the French boss had said the Government needed to deliver the mechanism for funding low carbon energy, the Contracts for Difference (CfD), in the new Energy Bill.
He suggested the CfD will reveal nuclear can be cost competitive with other low carbon options: “The CfD will be a transparent, proven instrument, fair for customers.”
The CfD system for funding low carbon energy has been criticised by some for being a hidden nuclear subsidy – which Energy Secretary Ed Davey has denied – while some have suggested it may not be the best way of funding nuclear power.
At the hearing representatives from both EDF, International Power, Scottish Power and Iberdrola, were grilled about whether the cost of nuclear power would be cheaper if the UK Government borrowed money to fund nuclear itself as opposed to giving firms the money to borrow for building power plants.
Labour MP Barry Gardiner got stuck in and asked whether nuclear was getting a “perverse incentive” through the CfD. A flustered Mr de Rivaz replied: “Absolutely not – I don’t want to sign a deal which is not balanced because if it is not it won’t be stable, won’t be durable.”
When another MP on committee asked if he would have chosen this way to fund nuclear, the EDF boss told MPs: “I think the world is watching Britain and clearly see the EMR in general, the CfD in particular is indeed, in the current situation, is the optimal solution to get the funding for this type of project. I don’t think there is any better alternative.”
The Energy Bill outlining the final proposals for the EMR is due to be published in two weeks’ time.