This quiet edge of windswept coastline on the west of Scotland should be empty. Here, the Hunterston B nuclear power plant has stood for over 40 years, silently generating enough electricity to power 1.7m homes. It was due to shut down last year. Instead, it will run for almost a decade longer than first thought. After 16 years as EDF chief executive, De Rivaz is due to step down from the company in a matter of weeks. He will leave the helm to Simone Rossi, after a tenure in which he built one of Britain’s largest energy companies amid one of the most tumultuous and politically inflamed periods for the energy industry. But inevitably, De Rivaz will be remembered for one of the biggest, most expensive and controversial power projects in British history: Hinkley Point C. Today, there is little to suggest the grit and dogged determination for which he became known in the industry. De Rivaz is visiting each of EDF Energy’s 20 sites and offices to deliver a three-fold parting message to his employees: one of thanks, a call to have pride in what has been achieved, and to have confidence in the future. De Rivaz will be remembered for one of the biggest, most expensive and controversial power projects in British history: Hinkley Point C. EDF Energy’s existing nuclear fleet has increased its output by 50pc from its days under British Energy control. Last year, it reported a record level of generation despite the age of the plants. Around 400 miles south of Hunterston, workers swarm the Hinkley Point C site to bring this project to fruition too. The £20.3bn project will be one of the biggest investments in power generation in decades, and provide over 3GW of low-carbon power to the grid. But to say that Hinkley has its critics is an uncomfortable understatement. The inevitable ire of environmentalists was easily matched by those who believed that the costs of the project would saddle bill payers with higher fees. That EDF’s other new nuclear projects in Europe have run over time and budget has only served to deepen concerns. Under an agreement between the Government and EDF Energy, ironed out in 2013, Hinkley is guaranteed to earn £92.50 for every megawatt-hour (MWh) of energy produced through a combination of wholesale market prices and a levy on consumer energy bills. At the time, the Government said this would require top-up payments totalling £6bn via energy bills but this spiralled to £30bn and, according to the latest figures, could top £50bn over the life of the plant. Is Hinkley Point C a good deal? It is a question that has sparked political debates, parliamentary enquiries, audit reports and headlines. It is also a question that has provoked indignation and red-faced irritability from De Rivaz in the past. Today, he is unruffled. “People say the deal is too generous. Others say the project is too risky,” he smiles wryly. “In the UK people tell me we have secured too good a deal. In France, they ask if I’m sure it’s a good deal for EDF because of the risks. To both of them, I say yes, I’m sure.” De Rivaz admits that there were certainly difficult moments, but avoids a question on whether there have been doubts that the Hinkley project would move ahead.
Telegraph 23rd Sept 2017 read more »