Scheme under threat in upcoming fiscal statement
Plans to build a new nuclear power station on the Suffolk coast have been thrown into jeopardy, with reports that the Sizewell C scheme is under review and could be delayed or even scrapped.
The project was green-lit by the government in July but with a new administration searching for savings, it appears the case for £20bn EDF scheme is being re-examined.
With chancellor Jeremy Hunt set to announce new tax and spend plans on November 17, a government official reportedly told the BBC that the government was reviewing “every major project – including Sizewell C”.
Cancelling the project would be a major about-turn for government energy policy and for Sunak himself, who in the summer leadership campaign said he would uphold ex-PM Boris Johnson’s promise – laid out in this year’s energy security strategy – to build eight new reactors.
One chief executive of a major contractor told Building he wasn’t too surprised to see big-ticket schemes being put under the microscope.
“What they’re doing is a sort of market testing exercise. Say something might be chopped, like HS2, Sizewell or a big road scheme, and see what the reaction is to it.”
Former chancellor and then-business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng granted Sizewell C a development consent order in July, citing the “very substantial and urgent need” for the project against Planning Inspectorate warnings of its environmental impact.
The board of French energy giant EDF, which would develop and operate the plant, recently “unanimously approved” plans to take a 20% stake in the scheme was expected to officially sign off on the funding after the UK budget is announced.
The UK government has committed to taking a further 20% stake, with the remaining 60% to be obtained privately.
Opponents of the scheme have been buoyed by reports of its potential demise, with Stop Sizewell C saying it could “only offer short term pain – with more money on our energy bills – for long term pain, with huge uncertainty about cost and time”.
“The Chancellor has said that eye-wateringly difficult decisions are needed so it’s right that eye-watering expensive projects go under the microscope,” a spokesperson said.