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EDF Energy chief refuses to ‘prejudge’ outcome of HPC talks

24 мая 2016
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Vincent de Rivaz, the CEO of EDF Energy, said today he does not want to “prejudge” the outcome of the French-owned company’s consultation with the Central Works Council, which needs to be completed before a final investment decision (FID) on Hinkley Point C can be made. Giving evidence to the UK parliament’s Energy and Climate Change Committee, de Rivaz said the consultation, which began on 2 May, would take at least 60 days.

Consisting of two European Pressurised Reactors in Somerset, England, Hinkley Point C (HPC) will be the first new nuclear power station to be built in the UK in almost 20 years and will provide about 7% of the country’s electricity.

De Rivaz had been called to reappear before the committee after giving evidence there on 23 March, when he was asked to confirm French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron’s comment that a FID was expected to be taken in early May. De Rivaz would not himself give a specific date and said the decision would be made “very soon”. Then, earlier this month, EDF Energy’s parent company, EDF Group, said the plant would take 115 months to build once the FID is made. The Group’s majority owner is the French state.

De Rivaz said today that EDF Energy still hopes the plant will begin operations in 2025.

He told the committee: “At the time of the last hearing, in March, there was the expectation that we would have taken a final investment decision on Hinkley Point C by now. That was my hope, too. Much has been said about the project in the media recently. Let us look at the facts. The last time I was here I said that EDF could not progress with HPC until the overall financial plan to secure the company’s future investments was in place”.

”We are operating in a market where the dramatic fall in wholesale energy prices has created difficult conditions for all energy companies. I said that EDF was working with its main shareholder, the French state, to secure its financial trajectory. I explained what was being discussed at that moment between EDF and the state. I described the overall plan, including asset disposals, greater operating efficiencies and a stronger balance sheet — the plan to address the overall situation at EDF and not specifically Hinkley Point C. Since then this overall plan has been presented to the EDF board by the chairman with the agreement of the French state. This is therefore also great news for HPC”.

“The combination of the money coming from EDF and from CGN, our Chinese partners, means that the money is there. That done, the chairman of the Group decided to consult with the French trade unions about HPC through the French company’s works council to seek their advisory opinion”.

Such social dialogue is “at the heart” of the EDF Group, he said, adding that the current position of some of the French trade unions is to postpone the project by two to three years.

“Our position is that there is no need for delay because the project is ready. No project has been better prepared than Hinkley Point C as a result of the intensive work over the last decade. And we must absolutely not delay it because the UK will need electricity from Hinkley Point C by the time it’s due to come online”.

There is “common ground” between the company and the Works Council, he said, “on the huge importance of this project in all its dimensions for EDF and the need to get it right”. By the end of the consultation, the works council will be invited to give its “advisory opinion”, he said, after which the Group’s chairman will “present HPC to the board” and the board will make a FID on the project.

De Rivaz added: “The last time I was here I could not give a precise date on this decision and that remains the case, simply because I don’t want to prejudge in any way the outcome of the consultation. Let me say though, the sooner we have a final investment decision, the better”.

He took the opportunity of addressing the committee “to repeat that, contrary to recent media reports, the costs of £18 billion have not changed. And, equally, to reassure everyone, that the support of our partner CGN is as strong as ever. The support of the French state is also very strong”.

Referring to a letter Macron had provided as ’evidence’ to the committee, de Rivaz said “the French authorities are giving full support to the project”.

The “numerous teams” working on HPC are “motivated and determined”, he said.

“The project is not on hold. As we speak, the project continues to prepare for the final investment decision, at which time we will confirm the date of commissioning […] EDF has secured its overall financing. We are consulting with the trade unions, but the teams are still working hard on the project. Hinkley Point C is a strategic project for France and for China. It is as essential for EDF as it is for the UK. We are ready to deliver it on time and on budget”.

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