Media organisations Platts and Reuters have both reported that the European Competition commissioner will recommend approving the state aid request for EDF Energy’s Hinkley C nuclear power plant project.

Reuters quoted several unnamed sources who said that the deal is likely to go through, but with conditions. Platts quoted the spokesman of competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia.

EDF Energy had this statement:
“Confirmation that Vice-President Almunia recommends that the College of Commissioners approve the agreement on Hinkley Point C is another positive step forward for this vital project. The process to gain approval continues in line with the expected timetable.

"This agreement between the UK Government and EDF for the first new nuclear power station in Britain since 1995 is fair and balanced for consumers and investors alike. The State Aid investigation has been rigorous, robust and thorough and we expect that the College of Commissioners will recognise this. Hinkley Point C is an important project which will deliver Europe-wide objectives, offering the prospect of reliable, secure and low carbon electricity for many decades to come as well as boosting jobs and skills."

In October 2013 the UK government and EDF Energy reached commercial terms for the £16 billion, twin-EPR project, including a 35-year guaranteed purchase price for energy from the plant for £92.50/MWh if only Hinkley Point C is built, or £3 less if both Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C are built.

EDF Energy said at the time that its final investment decision depends, among other things, on receiving state aid approval.

In a speech on 12 September about competition commission regulation of state aid in European energy markets, Almunia spoke in terms that could be considered favourable to the project.

He said that state aid rules have been broadened to help the fight against climate change, and in particular ‘preserving Europe’s lead in decobarbonization.’ (Nuclear power is a low-carbon source of electricity).

He also emphasized security of supply. "The recurrent gas crises involving the Ukraine and Russia – the main supplier of fuel to the EU – and the worrying recent developments in Ukraine’s eastern regions mean that there is no time to waste. We need a serious pan-European strategy to grant security of supply and defend our geo-political interests and this would involve policies that go far beyond the enforcement of competition rules."

One complication is that Almunia’s term of office finishes at the end of October. It is unclear what would happen if a decision was not reached before the end of his term.

In July EDF Energy concluded negotiations with trade unions on collective agreements for supervisors, support services workers and construction workers at the planned plant.

(This article was updated on 23 September to include EDF Energy’s statement, and to clarify that media reports stated that Almunia would recommend the proposal.)

Photo: Diggers performing preparatory work on Hinkley Point C site. Photo copyright EDF Energy