Letter from Vincent de Rivaz to EDF Energy employees regarding the EU referendum
Many of you have asked me about my views on the EU referendum taking place this coming Thursday, and have been actively engaged in the forum we opened on April 11. I am pleased to come forward with my thoughts.
First though, I want to say a few words about the tragic killing of Jo Cox MP. She was a passionate defender of human rights, dedicated to those most in need. She was a talented, brave and fundamentally decent person. Our thoughts are with her family and friends. Violence has no place in democracy. Democracy is an opportunity to debate, think and decide.
The democratic decision before the British people in this referendum is one of the most important in generations. Every five years we choose our governments; the choice in the referendum is a one-off that will have ramifications not just in Britain but across Europe and the world. That is why I have encouraged everyone in the company to register to vote.
There is huge global interest in the outcome. The UK’s allies and partners, including the two largest economies in the world, the USA and China, have backed the UK remaining in the EU. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and similar organisations are concerned about a possible negative impact on the British economy and a ripple effect on the world economy, particularly given the current fragile economic context.
In Britain, organisations as different as the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and the Trades Union Congress (TUC) have joined hands in support of remain.
Nonetheless the debate in this country has been extremely robust and sometimes divisive. And I know well that within the workforce of EDF Energy there are very different views!
Now decision time has arrived. The choice is for voters to make, but let me say how I see things.
I will share some thoughts on the UK and its unique role. Then, I will give some views on the energy policy issues and EDF Energy specific topics, related to the European debate. Lastly, I will give you my personal conclusion.
I welcome your reactions and comments on this letter, sent to all EDF Energy employees.
Britain in the World
The UK is a unique country within Europe. It has been a truly European country for centuries, long before becoming a member of the European Union. And Britain remains rightly proud of its traditions, culture, influence and role in the world; its history and its democracy.
As a Frenchman who has lived and worked in London for 14 years, I particularly value the unique perspective that Britain can bring to Europe.
I admire the British energy, patriotism and great appetite to be master of one’s own destiny. These themes have struck a chord with many during the campaign. Rightly so.
I admire too the openness of this country, its altruism, its sense of hospitality and how it can mobilise to defend causes of justice, freedom and democracy in the world. These themes have also to be part of the debate about Britain's future. For me, the country of the Magna Carta and the cradle of enlightenment, France, have a shared heritage.
All of these values were seen at their best during the extraordinary London Olympic and Paralympic Games in the summer of 2012. They were a celebration of diversity and inclusion, and the Paralympics in particular touched the world. This was the context in which Team GB succeeded and Great Britain was seen to be truly Great.
Britain - the historical "trading nation" - has understood the benefits of collaboration and working together, of cooperation and partnership. This country has embraced globalisation as an opportunity despite its risks. As a result, Britain is a modern country with a strong economy, the fifth-largest in the world. One the strongest economies in the largest single market in the world.
Being part of that European single market, Britain is in a position to benefit from the best of the two worlds, leading from inside, not from behind.
Britain has a great deal to say and do about the major challenges the world faces: climate change, peace, migration, terrorism, getting people out of poverty into education, skills, jobs and towards personal fulfilment. As well as on new technologies - digitalisation which is transforming our world and our societies at pace. We must step up to keep " human inside".
A lot, too, is down to values, the DNA of our nations. I think Europe must be built on the strength of its nations, not through the denial of the nations.
Therefore, I have a lot of sympathy with the aspiration for an even more democratic Europe, for institutions which remain connected to people, for governance based on accountability and transparency and for a vision underpinned by strong human values. Britain is well placed to help this happen.
EDF Energy in the EDF Group
On a different level, we in EDF Energy are also proud of our history, our identity, of being British and being in Britain. We deal with our customers, our people, our suppliers, our communities and the regulator in Britain.
At the same time we know what it means to be stronger together as part of EDF Group. In isolation we would not have achieved all we have. I know we are strongest and most successful when we work together with trust, transparency and teamwork.
When I joined this company 14 years ago, I said: no bureaucracy, no silocracy.
We are best when we are ourselves, fully accountable, results-driven, and making the most of being part of a diverse family. Owning our own destiny, being empowered, encouraged to take initiative, enfranchised and engaged. Relishing the opportunity to learn from others as well as being excited by the opportunity to have a positive impact on the others. Building bridges , not raising drawbridges.
We are a large company, part of an even larger Group. Better together.
Energy in Europe
Now, I would like to move to specific issues related to energy which are critically important for our business and our countries, even if they have not been key topics of the referendum debate.
All countries in Europe are in transition to a low carbon economy. This transition is not easy or smooth, and to be honest not fully joined up between countries.
In this context the UK has shown leadership. Our energy policy is the outcome of a long, mature, pragmatic and not ideological debate, leading to a wide consensus. We were the first country to put in place a carbon price floor, four years before the COP 21 climate conference in Paris last December. There was cross-party support for the Energy Act of 2013 which brought in the Electricity Market Reform and established the capacity market and the contract for difference.
Britain has convinced the European Commission that this was the right thing to do to assure energy security, tackle climate change and to do it affordably.
For the UK to remain competitive it is important that the leadership of the UK is followed by others. As it happens, France recently decided to implement a carbon price floor. The combined voice and common choice of UK and France will have an impact in Europe.
Our power systems must cooperate across Europe , through interconnections and a new way to mix decentralised and centralised systems, for the benefit of all not of the few.
Britain and France also agree on the value of new nuclear. No single country alone in Europe can secure nuclear's future. We know the huge importance Hinkley Point C represents for EDF Energy and for EDF Group, and for Britain and France. We value the constant support over the years of the UK and French governments. China has chosen HPC for their first large investment in nuclear in western countries because it is a great project, but also because it is a strategic partnership with the UK and with France. The European dimensions of this project have been very important to China’s decision to commit.
The remarkable alliance between France and UK on nuclear is absolutely strategic for France as it is for the UK. It is the case of our two countries leading together in Europe and from Europe .
HPC is a perfect example of where long term visibility, policy stability, regulatory certainty attract massive investment and create massive opportunity for jobs.
EDF is about to take its final investment decision on HPC. It will happen after the referendum. The absolute need for HPC will remain regardless of the outcome of the vote, and politicians on both sides of the debate recognise this.
Our shared future
I hope the referendum will not divide the country beyond the vote.
We more than ever need to address the big issues of our time: the migration crisis; poverty; fundamentalism and extremism; climate change and destruction of bio-diversity. We need to sustain our economic recovery .
All of these require us to work together in an open, democratic and non-discriminatory way. Doing so means recognising the strong common culture that keeps us together, and defining in a positive way what we stand for.
To conclude on a personal note, I know the EU is not a perfect family. But it is a noble idea. The EU has delivered a lot since its inception, despite its shortcomings. I believe the choice is between the irreversible step of leaving, or keeping our options open by remaining, and seeking to improve what is not working. The challenge and opportunity is to ask how this family can work better together, for the greater good of all.
I fear that the signal of a British vote to leave might have a ripple effect and that "Brexit" might mean "Break It" for the whole EU. History convinces me that we should not underestimate the importance of stability for the European continent.
My thoughts are with those who have the huge responsibility to vote. I respect all of you personally facing such a momentous decision for the future of your country, a country into which you so warmly welcomed me 14 years ago.
I will not have a vote because I am not a British citizen. However, one colleague at Barnwood recently asked me: “If you had a vote, what would you vote?”
My answer was: I would vote Remain. Remain together .
I know our friends in France would welcome this boost for what we aim to achieve together. Ours is a huge shared task.
I would do it with full respect for the other side of the argument and those defending it in good faith. I would do it taking into account all the elements, those related to the future of EDF Energy and those embracing the bigger picture. I have shared these elements with you in this letter. I did it with my heart and with my mind.
Those feelings and thoughts are mine. The vote is yours.
Vincent de Rivaz CBE
Chief Executive Officer
For more information contact:EDF Energy Media
Media Relations Team
EDF Energy is one of the UK’s largest energy companies and the largest producer of low-carbon electricity, producing around one-fifth of the nation's electricity from its nuclear power stations, wind farms, coal and gas power stations and combined heat and power plants. The company supplies gas and electricity to over 5 million customer accounts and is the biggest supplier of electricity by volume in Great Britain.
EDF Energy’s safe and secure operation of its eight existing nuclear power stations at sites across the country makes it the UK’s largest generator of low carbon electricity. EDF Energy is also leading the UK's nuclear renaissance and has published plans to build four new nuclear plants, subject to the right investment framework.
These new plants could generate enough low carbon electricity for about 40% of Britain’s homes. They would make an important contribution to the UK’s future needs for clean, secure and affordable energy. The project is already creating business and job opportunities for British companies and workers.
Through Our Better Energy Ambitions, EDF Energy has developed one of the biggest environmental and social programmes of any British energy company.
In 2014 EDF Energy received seven ‘Big Ticks’ in the Business in the Community (BITC) Responsible Business Awards. In 2013 EDF Energy received the Environmental Leadership for Behavioural Change Award in the national Environment and Energy Awards and was highly commended in the first ever pan European Corporate Social Responsibility Awards scheme for its Sustainable Schools programme – the Pod.
EDF Energy is part of EDF Group, one of Europe’s largest power companies. The company employs around 14,000 people at locations across the UK.
To find out more about the UK's energy challenges look at www.edfenergy.com/energyfuture/