Companies express interest in the nuclear power plant venture as government tries to encourage investment

Ed Davey

Ed Davey

At least 10 firms are believed to be vying to buy Horizon Nuclear Power and build new power plants in the UK.

The firm which has been developing plans for new nuclear power plants at Wylfa in Anglesey and Oldbury in South Gloucestershire, was put up for sale by its owners, German energy firms RWE Npower and E.ON, in March.

An industry source close to the process said the number of bidders was in “the double digits” and that they were expected to form between two and five consortiums in the next month.
The source said a decision on the winning bidder was likely to be made by “late summer”. This comes as energy minister Charles Hendry visited Horizon’s offices on Thursday to highlight the sale to potential investors.

So far China’s State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation (SNPTC), China Guangdong Nuclear Power (CGNP), US nuclear firm Exelon, Japanese firm Toshiba and Russian nuclear operator Rosatom have all been linked with the scheme.

Building understands the government is keen to have an owner for the Horizon project that is able to inspire public confidence. This makes it unlikely that Rosatom, which has previously expressed interest in the business, would be able to take a leading role in any consortiums because of its connection with the Chernobyl disaster.

The energy bill is about signalling that there is a stable, long-term framework for you to invest in

Ed Davey, energy minister

The news comes as the government published its draft Energy Bill, which set out how it will offer guaranteed prices for the electricity from new plants under a system known as “contracts for difference”.

The proposals are considered crucial to bringing forward new energy infrastructure investment, particularly nuclear new build, by giving certainty to investors.

The government also said it will put in place interim measures which mirror the contracts for difference, to ensure that projects are able to be given the green light ahead of the contracts’ introduction in 2014.

Energy secretary Ed Davey confirmed the government has started negotiations with EDF Energy over how it can ensure the French firm will invest in two nuclear reactors at Hinkley in Somerset. EDF is set to make its decision before the end of the year.

Davey said: “They have only just started but we are clear that the [Energy] Bill is about signalling to all investors that you have a stable long-term framework to make your investment.”

However, the proposals do not contain the “strike price” energy firms can expect to be paid for each unit of electricity - those figures will only be published for consultation next spring before being fixed late next year.