I think I should start this post by telling you what’s special about the photo above. At first glance it may look like a really dry and boring snap of a Commons select committee hearing. However, if you look closely you can see me! Isn’t that exciting? I may need a haircut, but I’m still pretty pleased to have been caught on camera, given how exciting a trip to Parliament always is.
In any case, this shot was taken at the Energy and Climate Change Committee hearing this morning. The Committee was continuing its inquiry into new-build nuclear programmes in the UK following the withdrawal of RWE npower and EON from the Horizon project. Today, the chiefs of these companies – Volker Beckers and Dr Tony Cocker, respectively – gave evidence. This was followed by evidence from DECC Minister Charles Hendry and Hergen Haye, DECC’s Head of New Nuclear & Strategy.
The hearing was interesting for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it was fascinating to hear first-hand the precise reasons for RWE and EON’s withdrawal from their plans. It was interesting to hear both companies state that there is no way that they’ll be reversing their decision to withdraw. However, they said that they feel the UK has one of the best investment frameworks around. They praised both the current government and the previous Labour government for their efforts to encourage investment in the sector, and singled out Contracts for Difference (CFD) as a particularly promising aspect of the Electricity Market Reform. Dr Cocker even went so far in his praise for the notion of the CFD as to say that EON felt so confident that the CFD would resolve the issue of uncertainty around electricity prices that it didn’t feature in the decision to withdraw.
It was also interesting to hear that both EON and RWE, and the Government feel confident that they will find a buyer for Horizon. The Committee expressed concerns that have been shared in the media recently about the possibility of foreign (read Russian or Chinese) ownership of a piece of the UK’s energy infrastructure. However, neither company, nor the Government shared these worries. Rather, they said nationality is of secondary concern in such dealings, with the primary factors being a candidate’s prior nuclear experience, safety and security practices, and financial viability.
We’ll certainly be following this issue very closely. If you’d like to watch today’s proceedings for yourself, you can do so here.