New twist in power row
UK doesn’t need Hinkley nuclear plant, says SSE boss
With the government dithering over the future of the plant, Alistair Phillips-Davies, chief executive of SSE, said the energy gap can be filled by planned gas plants.
His intervention is the latest twist in the long-running saga following Prime Minister Theresa May’s decision to call for further consideration of the Somerset project, a move which dismayed its Chinese backers.
China General Nuclear Power Corp holds a 33% stake in the new plant.
EDF, the French utility which is leading the £8-billion Hinkley Point C proposal, has also been riven by board disputes and resignations over the company’s ability to finance it.
SSE, Britain’s second-biggest energy supplier and a former investor in new nuclear plants, is planning to build new gas-fired power plants and offshore wind farms that Mr Phillips-Davies said can deliver the electricity needed as old plants close down.
“If Hinkley doesn’t progress, there is plenty to fill the gap,” he said in an article for the Politics Home website.
“I have absolutely no idea what will happen to Hinkley Point C and whether it will be taken forward or not.
“For me though, its significance to the UK’s needs for secure, modern supplies of electricity has been repeatedly overplayed.
“Whilst it is undoubtedly true that we need new, cleaner technology to replace the older power stations coming off the system, there are enough credible alternatives out there which can be built in time to deliver the balanced energy mix we need, and a policy framework which can deliver the necessary investment.
“Today there is now nearly twice as much generating capacity from new gas-fired power stations and offshore wind potentially waiting to come on to the country’s electricity system by 2025 as there is old coal and nuclear coming off. There are also other new nuclear projects being developed around the country.
“And there are other options to be thought about: wind power in the remote Scottish islands and perhaps even some repowering of old wind farms without subsidy, as well as emerging technologies like small modular reactors or Demand-Side-Response and storage. So, if Hinkley doesn’t progress there is plenty to fill the gap.
“And the alternatives are not necessarily more expensive.”
Mr Phillips-Davies said the Westminster government should focus on maintaining investor confidence in its energy policies, such as the minimum price for carbon emissions and its low-carbon power contracts.