Businesses pledge to invest £4.4bn in Sizewell C, if the Government gives the green light

Pictured: An artist's impression of Sizewell C. Image: EDF

The MoU has been signed on behalf of all 200+ members of the Sizewell C Consortium, including Mace Group, Mott Macdonald, Laing O’Rourke, Jacobs, BAM Nuttall , Kier and Osprey Group. Beyond the private sector, the Consortium includes NGOs, campaign groups, trade unions and education providers.

Counter signing are trade bodies including the CBI, businesses outside of the Consortium such as Vestas and a string of MPs representing constituencies in the East of England.

The MoU outlines how the proposed power plant would attract up to £4.4bn of investment from members of the Consortium – £2bn of which would go directly to Suffolk. It explains that this level of investment would support 35,000 in Suffolk and a further 37,000 across the nuclear value chain in the East of England more widely. These figures are based on the fact that this year’s Budget was used to give ‘Freeport’ status to Suffolk – a move designed to make investment more attractive and speed up the planning process.

Aside from investment, the MoU states that Consortium members are willing to work to support future nuclear projects in areas including Moorside and Cumbria, and to engage with policymakers to develop a more comprehensive and long-term nuclear pipeline for the UK.

The MoU stipulates that further Government support is needed to bring the full scale of the potential benefits of Sizewell C to fruition. The Energy White Paper, published late last year, confirmed that BEIS has entered negotiations with EDF on Sizewell C, following a string of delays. A Development Consent Order has since been submitted to the Planning Inspectorate.

The Sizewell C Consortium’s spokesperson Cameron Gilmour said that new nuclear will play “an essential role in driving the transition to our net-zero future…. And in levelling up and ensuring that the East of England is not left behind in the green recovery”.

“For these benefits to be realised, we need a firm commitment to getting Sizewell C built by working closely with Government and consulting with local stakeholders to secure approval for the project”

Impending nuclear gap

Six of the UK’s nuclear plants are planning to go offline by 2030. While some are reaching the natural end of their working life, others have reported increased costs in recent years and are predicting further hikes without government support.

At the same time, progress on Hinkley Point in Somerset has been stalled once again due to Covid-19.

Proponents of nuclear power have warned that this will leave a “gap” in low-carbon power generation – particularly given that the UK’s electricity demand is set to rise over the coming decades.

The Government does, clearly, see nuclear playing a role in its net-zero plans for the energy sector. The £12bn Ten Point Plan for a green industrial revolution, published late last year, earmarks £525m for the support of smaller nuclear projects. A significant share is expected to go to Rolls Royce, to support its plans for 16 small modular nuclear reactors.

But private sector players have continued to call for clarity on larger projects and on the Government’s long-term vision, as it has been argued that this limited and short-term funding pot is not enough, alone, to maximise investor support.

It is worth noting that not all businesses and green groups believe that new nuclear has a role to play in the UK’s net-zero transition. While proponents of nuclear over renewables point to the fact that it overcomes the challenge of intermittent generation, battery energy storage is a rapidly growing market and has been posited as an alternative solution. A report this week from Delta EE and EASE revealed that Europe’s energy storage market is expected to reach 3000MWh in 2021, with a significant acceleration of installs in the UK in particular.

Sarah George

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