The UK government on 7 March affirmed its plans to construct a new NPP at Hinkley Point C, despite the resignation of EDF's Chief Finance Officer Thomas Piquemal over the increasing bill for the project. The opposition Labour party demanded that the government should give details of its 'plan B' for keeping the lights on, amid growing concerns that the project could threaten EDF's financial stability.
The project, to be funded through a combination of French and Chinese financing, has proved controversial after the government struck the deal on the basis of guaranteed energy prices in 2013. UK Prime Minister David Cameron's spokeswoman said: "I'm not going to speculate on the resignation of one individual. That is a matter for EDF. We continue to fully support the project and President Hollande said ... that it has the full support of the French government." She added: "The French government are in discussions with EDF on this. They've been clear that they fully support this, and now we wait for the next stage, which is the financial investment decision."
However, shadow energy secretary Lisa Nandy said the government needed a backup plan to keep the lights on. "This power station is absolutely central to the government's strategy for keeping the lights on and meeting Britain's international commitments on climate change. With growing scepticism over whether it will now be built, Ministers must tell us what is their plan B.'
The Hinkley project has seen numerous delays, with EDF struggling to find the finance needed to support its 66% stake, amid rising debts and a huge slumps in profits. The final investment decision is now due in April. EDF CEO Jean-Bernard Levy repeated on 7 March that the go-ahead would come soon, having said last month that the first concrete should be poured there in 2019.
“With the support of its state shareholder, EDF confirms it is studying the investment in the two Hinkley Point reactors in the best financial conditions for the group, with the aim of announcing a final investment decision soon," Levy said. He also confirmed Piquemal's resignation, announcing that Xavier Girre, who joined the company last year as finance director of its French business, had been provisionally appointed as the group finance chief. However, EDF is facing opposition from French union officials, who have suggested that investment should be delayed until 2019 because of technical problems with similar reactor designs at sites in France and Finland.