Why May approved Hinkley nuclear – the “biggest white elephant” in UK history

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The people who approved and pushed for the approval of the £18 billion (and rising) project stand to benefit from its approval. Financially.

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CleanTechnica

As most of you reading this are probably aware, despite the UK’s Prime Minister, Theresa May, ordering of a review of the project a few months back, it appears that there was never a serious intent to cancel the project, as it was fully approved by May a few days ago, on September 15.

Hinkley-Point-C

Importantly, the guaranteed price of £92.50/MWh (megawatt-hour) of electricity will stay in place (and rise with inflation for 35 years), despite this figure being much higher (more than double) than the current market rate.

The EDF and Chinese-government-backed project is extremely expensive, possibly not even viable, as there are to date no working nuclear projects of the same design, etc. So, the question is, why go forward with it?

According to a report released by Greenpeace, the answer is pretty simple: The people who approved and pushed for the approval of the £18 billion (and rising) project stand to benefit from its approval. Financially.

This is probably the only way that the approval of the project makes any kind of sense (other than the obvious factor of pressure from the Chinese government). As Green Party MP Caroline Lucas put it, the Hinkley Point C project is “the biggest white elephant in British history,” so of course money is going to be found at the root of it.

The Canary provides more on the report, revealing that “ten advisers and civil servants who worked at the former Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) in the last five years had links to EDF. One was recently employed by the DECC and was also a manager at the Office for Nuclear Regulation, the regulator for the nuclear industry. This was before they became a licensing officer for EDF.”

Amazingly, an EDF Strategy Manager even had a “13-month secondment to the DECC commercial team while working for auditors KPMG. As Greenpeace notes, the DECC commercial team ‘played a crucial role in deciding to press ahead with the Hinkley project’. It was this team which had oversight on who invested in Hinkley Point C. Additionally, a communications officer for EDF was previously the Senior Ministerial Visits Manager at DECC until early 2016. And a policy adviser and analyst for the now-defunct department had previously done the same job at EDF. This is on top of the fact that former Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary, Ed Davey, now works as a lobbyist for MHP Communications — where EDF just happens to be a client.”

There’s quite a bit more as far as links go:

As Martin Williams describes in his book Parliament Ltd: A journey to the dark heart of British politics: When he lost his seat in 2015, he (Davey) went off to join MHP Communications. He had connections with the firm already: MHP acted as lobbyists for EDF Energy, who Davey “had dealings with as a minister”… When MHP’s Chief Executive announced Davey’s appointment he was able to speak candidly about the benefits of employing a former energy minister. “Ed’s unique insight into the energy sector will be particularly valuable to the companies that we work with in that sector. His knowledge of the top-level workings of Britain’s political system will also prove immensely useful to a range of our clients and to MHP itself”.

It was Davey who was responsible for the initial agreement between the government and EDF. But the links to EDF Energy and the Tory government run deeper than the Greenpeace analysis. And go right to the top of the Conservative Party.

Sir Richard Lambert heads EDF’s Stakeholder Advisory Panel. It gives EDF “strategic advice and direction”. Knighted under David Cameron, he’s a non-executive director of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, acting as lead advisor to the Foreign Secretary. He was in this role under Philip Hammond, who appears to have been crucial in getting the Hinkley deal pushed through… The Stakeholder Panel will be taking a particular interest in the final investment decision on Hinkley Point C. Also advising EDF is Dame Helen Alexander. She is a non-executive director at Rolls-Royce, which has £100m worth of contracts at Hinkley, Alexander is also the Deputy Chair of the “women on boards” review. She was appointed by Sajid Javid in February 2016.

Tory peer Lord Patten of Barnes is the former governor of Hong Kong and a former Conservative Party Chairman. But currently, he too sits on EDF Energy’s Stakeholder Advisory Panel. On 9 September, Patten co-authored an open letter to the Financial Times (FT), calling on May to “press ahead with Hinkley Point”.

Also on the EDF panel is Sir Simon Robertson. Another Tory peer, who is a party donor to the tune of £765,000, he was knighted in 2010, just after the Tories came to office. Robertson was also Deputy Chairman of HSBC until April 2016. In 2014, HSBC arranged the financial backing for EDF to carry out the project at Hinkley. Robertson also signed the letter in the FT. He is also a long-standing member of the Tory “Leader’s Group“. This “club” costs £50,000 a year to be a member of and gives access to the likes of May and Hammond at exclusive private dinners.

Amusingly, Theresa May’s husband stands to directly benefit from the project’s approval as well. As he works for the investment firm Capital Group, which possesses a ~10% stake in the French firm Schneider Electric, which has of course been granted a contract relating to the project.

Quite a web. Everybody seems to be standing to benefit from the project. Except, of course, the taxpayers of the UK, who will be covering the bill.

Source: CleanTechnica. Reproduced with permission.

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3 Comments
  1. MaxG 3 years ago

    Welcome to the default state in politics: corruption!

  2. Peter Grant 3 years ago

    Great to get this article re-published in OZ, without RE it would not be. However, a serious contextual omission is a consideration of grid ownership – particularly given WA (western Power) and NSW grid infrastructure is on the block.

    In the south Thatcher’s de-nationalised British was re-nationalised, by the French government…through EDF, until they sold out to Hutchinson. Britons still pay for it, but just don’t have the representation.

    For me this scandal is not just about nuclear or the generation cost/subsidies, but the utter failure of ‘regulation’ to overcome the deep conflicts of interest with powerful utilities being able to push centralized generation, dominate the regulatory framework, and purchase policy makers. The British grid is now dominated by a handful of large transnational corporations with strong government connections who will be paid for transmitting/distributing centralised power to a degree that decentraised or behind the meter generation would not afford.

    That government gives the best representation that money can buy is no surprise. But at least with a publicly owned grid there are checks and balances with less opportunity policy corruption by powerful vested interests.

    Hinkley C is illustrative of why the Chinese Government considered the NSW grid so valuable.

  3. Sam Treadwell 3 years ago

    I’d bet the real reason is back room politics, something like, we’ll allow the Brexit at face value, but that billionaire utility project has to be approved, because we can’t screw Red China.

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