In an interview with BBC Radio 4, Vincent de Rivaz, CEO of EDF Energy answers questions on Hinkley Point C.
Kamal Ahmed, business editor: I started by asking the Chief Executive of EDF in the UK, Vincent de Rivaz, if this was a project that just cost too much.
Vincent de Rivaz, CEO, EDF Energy: No, it is not. The reality is that this country needs to replace today’s old polluting power plants with new low-carbon electricity. Our existing nuclear power plants won't last forever. We have to replace them and we have to replace polluting power plants with reliable around-the-clock nuclear power plants. At the end of the day this will save at least 10% on the bills of the customers compared to a low carbon solution without nuclear.
KA: But we could – for the cost of this one new nuclear plant, you could provide a whole new fleet of low-carbon gas-fired power stations. Wouldn’t that be a similar and cheaper option?
VDR: If we built gas-fired power plants, we will have to import billions and billions pounds of gas. We will have to rely, as it is the case today, on volatile prices on the wholesale market. We will have to rely on the world’s politics. And we want to have a low-carbon technology. Gas is not.
KA: In 2006, you said that we would be cooking our Christmas dinner using nuclear energy from this new nuclear plant by 2017. It’s now 2015; we’re still at least 10 years away. Doesn’t that show that there are always going to be delays and cost overruns for very complicated projects like this?
VDR: We are very proud of what we have done to get where we are. We have removed a lot of hurdles. What I can tell you is that as investors we are ready to shoulder the costs of the project. If the project costs less, the customers will benefit; if it costs more, we will bear the cost. So we are ready to go ahead. We have learnt from all the experience of other projects and, as I said, we are very proud to be where we are today to deliver these projects; a nuclear power plant to provide reliable electricity, low-carbon electricity, creating jobs for this country, and around-the-clock the electricity that we need. When we compare the nuclear power plants with other technologies, solar, wind, we are not comparing the same thing. We need electricity which is around-the-clock. Whether or not the wind or the sun shines, we need electricity.
KA: You’ve been guaranteed £92 per megawatt hour when this finally starts producing electricity, which could be in 2023 or 2025. That’s twice the present wholesale price. That is just far too high.
VDR: It is a fair deal. It is a fair deal for the customers, a fair deal for the investors. You cannot compare the price in the next decade with the price of today. The prices of today are the result of old power plants, and the result of the low gas prices at the moment. In 2008, it was £80 per megawatt hour. We all remember that. The oil price was $140 per barrel. That can come again. We have to protect ourselves against this volatility. When you have an old car and you replace it with a new car, of course it costs more, but the services that you are going to get for the new car are different from the services that you are getting from the old car. These nuclear power plants will operate for 60 years.
KA: But do you have any security concerns about partnering with Chinese State nuclear companies?
VDR: No, we have not. We have known these companies for 30 years. We have been building nuclear power plants with them in China. We know what they can bring to the project with their experience. They will have, like us, the same concern for the local communities and for the jobs that we are going to create. Chinese investment in UK creates jobs.
KA: Mr Rivaz, thank you very much.