Hinkley Point C delay deals blow to UK energy strategy

“We have the expertise, the supply chains and the teams ready to build Hinkley Point C safely, on time and on budget,” Vincent de Rivaz, then chief executive of EDF, said in 2016 as the project to build the UK’s first nuclear power station since the 1990s got under way.  

That confidence has proven misplaced. Earlier this week, the French state-owned utility announced the latest in a series of delays and cost overruns to the 3.2 gigawatt plant under construction in Somerset. 

The setback to a plant that is meant to supply electricity to 6mn homes has raised fresh questions about the UK’s energy strategy and its push to decarbonise the grid over the next decade as part of its goal to reach net zero by 2050.

A new generation of nuclear power stations forms a crucial part of the government’s decarbonisation drive with plans to build up to 24GW by the middle of the century up from 5.88GW at present.

The fleet supplied about 14 per cent of the UK’s electricity in 2022 but four of the five plants are set to close by March 2028, while demand for electricity is expected to grow as the economy switches away from fossil fuels.

Analysts have warned the gaps left by nuclear generation could push power prices up towards the end of the decade, as gas-fired power plants, which tend to provide expensive back-up electricity to the grid, would need to step in.