EDF will select a preferred bidder for the £180m earthworks contract for its planned Hinkley Point nuclear power station before Christmas, write Joey Gardiner and David Matthews.

The announcement came as the energy company confirmed it will seek permission to carry out early works in advance of receiving full planning permission for the £4bn power station, the first to be built in the UK for 25 years.

The work, which was initially tendered in March, and then re-tendered in May, has been hotly contested, with three consortiums - Balfour Beatty and Vinci; Costain and Sir Robert McAlpine; and Kier, URS and Bam Nuttall - thought to be in the running.

Getting materials in on time is more important than ever

Alan Cumming, EDF

Speaking at Building’s Energy Infrastructure conference this week, Alan Cumming, head of procurement for EDF, said the selection would be made before the end of December, although contracts would not be signed. He said: “If you want to be a supplier to us, the ability to get materials in on time, getting it right first time every time, is more important than ever.”

EDF is yet to determine how much work will be in the package.

The government this week said it hoped to launch its consultation on energy market regulation, seen as essential to convincing EDF to push ahead with the nuclear build, “around Christmas”. The consultation is thought likely to set a floor price for carbon to help guarantee returns for nuclear operators.

Meanwhile, the developer of the £780m Thanet offshore wind farm has said more than half the value of the next wave of wind farms will be ploughed into UK firms.

David Hodkinson, head of development at Swedish renewables giant Vattenfall, said that a “hopeless” fifth of the value of the Kent wind farm, which opened in September, was channelled into British business.

The only UK firm involved was project manager Noble Denton.