Head of French energy firm wants guaranteed price for nuclear power which greens oppose as a subsidy

The head of French energy firm EDF Energy has piled pressure on the government to speed up its energy market reform plans, so the firm can build new nuclear power plants in the UK.

Although deputy prime minister Nick Clegg pledged earlier this month to push on with the reforms in the next session of Parliament the government is not due to have its electricity market reforms on the statute book until spring 2013.

Speaking at an infrastructure conference today in London,  Vincent de Rivaz, chief executive of EDF Energy, said: “We are getting on with the job [of building new nuclear power plants] and we are gathering pace. Our determination needs to be matched with visible momentum from government.

“It’s critical the government continues to make progress with electricity market reform.”

Although EDF has already spent millions on developing its first nuclear project at Hinkley Point in Somerset, it will not make a decision on whether to commit to the scheme until later this year.

He said that certainty on how ‘contracts for difference’, the part of the reforms that will allow the government to set a higher energy price for low carbon technologies, would work was crucial to the firm’s investment decision.

But green campaigners have described such a system as a “subsidy” for nuclear power.

Nick Molho, head of energy policy at WWF, said the contracts amounted to a “subsidy for a 60-year old technology”.

He added: “This is a recognition that nuclear power plants cannot be built in a liberalised electricity market and still need government support.”

De Rivaz’s comments follow calls from the construction industry to speed up the reforms so that a buyer can be found for Horizon Nuclear Power, which was put up for sale by joint investors RWE N-power and E.ON last month.

Horizon Nuclear Power has licences for two sites where it expects to build nuclear power plants.

This week MPs on the energy select committee said they would investigate the  future of the nuclear industry in the wake of the Horizon sale.