Today is, as we all know, the start of economy week in Westminster, with politicians striving to show that all that jubilant talk about dawns breaking over the hill this summer wasn’t misplaced. The Hinkley Point deal, the first new nuclear plant in a generation, is supposed to show that Britain is open for business, is building, and is providing jobs and training for a new generation of workers in a new generation of nuclear plants.
On the Today programme this morning Energy Secretary Ed Davey tried to outline some of the value that this deal with EDF and Beijing-controlled energy companies China National Nuclear Corporation and China General Nuclear Power Group would have for this country. He said:
‘We do think this is a very good deal for UK industry, not least because 57 per cent of the value of the project is going to go to UK firms. So there’s going to be UK firms and UK workers getting jobs and investment as a result of the deal that we’re agreeing.’
‘We’ve gone through with EDF in minute detail the value of this project and the contractors they’re going to use, so there will be a lot of British contractors in the building of this project. There’s going to be 25,000 employed during the construction of this project, at the peak 5,600 – the vast majority of course will be British workers.’
British workers? That’s not legal, is it? Well, Davey explained that a local college would give workers the skills needed to work at Hinkley C. So this fits into the ‘global race’ (sorry) narrative that ministers are trying to set: that Britain needs skills to stay afloat, or compete with other nations (although this deal, with the French and Chinese, shows again that this race business is a little bit misleading: if it is a global race, it’s more like a road cycling race, with a peloton that benefits the competitors). But what it doesn’t fit quite so neatly with is the big debate in Westminster: energy bills. EdF are being promised £92.50 per Megawatt Hour, about twice the going rate – it’ll rise with inflation every one of the next 30 years. While DECC estimates that prices will drop in the long run, this deal could add up to £8 to bills at a time when ministers are getting grumpy about green subsidies.
UPDATE The FT has an excellent summary of the deal’s mechanics here.Tags: Ed Davey, Global race, Hinkley, nuclear power, UK politics