Hinkley

This week’s post is dedicated to the memory of Stephen Tindale — energy expert, campaigner, colleague and friend for the last 30 years. We met when he worked as assistant general secretary of the Fabian Society, Britain’s oldest think tank, of which I was then treasurer, and worked together in other organisations, including the Centre for European Reform. Two weeks ago Stephen, who had long suffered from depression, took his own life.

Born in Africa and trained at the Foreign Office, Stephen cared about the world and was an internationalist in the best sense. Going from the Fabians to become director of Greenpeace in the UK, a move that surprised those of us who had expected him to follow a more conventional career in government or politics, he helped to take the environmental lobby beyond its origins as a protest movement. Read more

To no one’s great surprise, the cost of the planned new nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point in southwest England has been increased again and another possible year’s delay has been added to a project that is already eight years behind schedule.

The cost could could now reach £20.3bn — up from the £18bn quoted last year and the £16bn figure set in 2015. EDF says £1.5bn of the increase is due to a “better understanding” of the construction work needed and UK regulatory requirements. The French energy group is still hoping to complete the project by the end of 2025 but its statement issued on Monday provides a fallback by quoting the possibility of a further 15-month delay to the first reactor, which would take us into 2027. EDF’s comments suggest an inappropriate degree of complacency: £1.5bn is an awful lot of “better understanding”, particularly when the project has been in preparation for the last eight years. Read more

Nearly. That was my summary of the state of negotiations between the UK government and EDF on new nuclear last month. Nearly but not quite as comments by Ed Davey over the past week make clear. The government had hoped to make a positive announcement before the summer but it is now looking at the prospect of more months of further talks. A deal, intended by ministers in London to represent a final offer, was put on the table four weeks ago. EDF in Paris, where all the energy company’s decisions are made, has failed to respond.

Frustrated by the unwillingness of EDF to engage, the government, which wanted to do a deal and thought an agreement was possible after the last Anglo-French summit in May, has now effectively stepped back and is talking to other possible suppliers. Read more