Ecotricity and Greenpeace threaten legal challenge over Hinkley

Green energy supplier Ecotricity and campaign group Greenpeace have threatened to mount a legal challenge if Hinkley Point C receives any more state funding.

The planned nuclear plant was awarded a 35-year Contract for Difference (CfD) with a strike price of £92.50 – more than twice the current wholesale power price.

Ecotricity and Greenpeace have written to the UK and French governments and EDF Energy, warning that any additional funding from the French government would be “illegal” under EU state aid rules. 

A final investment decision on Hinkley has been repeatedly delayed because EDF has struggled to secure sufficient financing for the project. In March chief executive Jean-Bernard Lévy said it will not go ahead without the injection of extra capital from its 85 per cent shareholder – the French state.

Shortly afterward French economy minister Emmanuel Macron said it would be a “mistake” to abandon Hinkley and suggested his government could help with financing by accepting dividend payments from EDF in the form of shares rather than cash.

Greenpeace and Ecotricity have argued that any such support from the French state would not be covered by the European Commission’s approval of state aid in October 2014. They said it would be illegal without a fresh decision by the commission.

Greenpeace UK Executive Director John Sauven said:  “The only way Hinkley can be kept alive is on the life support machine of state aid.”

“The UK government needs to stop penalising the UK renewable energy industry in favour of propping up an ailing state-owned nuclear industry in France,” he added.

Ecotricity founder Dale Vince said: “It’s time for everyone to realise that we’ve reached the end of the road for Hinkley Point – it’s not going to happen. 

“Illegal state aid is one thing, and we’ll work with Greenpeace to challenge that if it happens – but it’s not just financial issues, there are technical problems with Hinkley Point too. 

“EDF [is] yet to build one of these reactors, their first two attempts are, between them, 16 years late and billions over budget – nobody in a normal business would attempt a third with the first two so woefully out of control.”

Last month EDF Energy chief executive Vincent de Rivaz said “categorically” that Hinkley Point C will go ahead. Speaking before a meeting of the Energy and Climate Change Committee he said he expected a final investment decision to be made in mid-May, once the French government had made a decision on financing.

Responding to questions raised by committee chair Angus MacNeil, energy secretary Amber Rudd conceded earlier this week that any further delays to the project would not jeopardise the UK’s energy security.

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