‘Legal problem’ to Hinkley Point deal

Somerset County Gazette: An artist's impression of the Hinkley C site. An artist's impression of the Hinkley C site.

THE contract for building the new nuclear power station in Somerset might not be valid, according to a legal academic.

Former Liberal Democrat MP David Howarth, a lecturer at Cambridge, said the deal with EDF over Hinkley Point C, could not be valid under EU law.

Mr Howarth claims the contract that fixes a price for the energy if the scheme goes ahead, could be seen as an ‘unjustifiable subsidy’.

The Government said the deal would be fair for consumers.

EDF and ministers agreed a ‘strike price’ of £92.50 for every megawatt hour, which is almost twice the current wholesale cost of electricity last year.

In a report co-written with Simon Deakin, director of the Centre for Business Research at Cambridge, he and Mr Howarth highlight what they call a ‘number of flaws’ in the Government’s contract with the French energy firm.

Mr Howarth told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that there was a ‘problem with whether this is a valid contract at all’.

He argued that because “the system doesn’t allow for non- British generators to come within it, it might be a violation of the basic principle of EU law of freedom of movement of goods”.

Last Friday, David Cameron appeared on BBC Somerset saying: “I’m confident we will get this deal through the European Union.

“I’ve been working very closely with the French president and the EC president on this, and I saw the head of EDF in Downing Street just a couple of days ago.

“It is absolutely right that countries like ours should be able to decide that part of our energy needs will be met by nuclear.”

A spokesperson for EDF Energy said: “The agreement between the Government and EDF group is fair and balanced for investors and consumers.

“It was reached following a robust and thorough process including opening the project to independent validation on behalf of the Government.

“Consumers will pay nothing until the station is operational.

“The risk of constructing the power station to budget and schedule will be shared by EDF group and its partners.

“In addition, if savings are achieved in the construction of the Hinkley Point C project, these will be shared with consumers through a lower price for electricity.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Energy and Climate Change said: “Last year’s agreement of principles is robust, presents a fair deal for consumers, is in line with electricity market reform and we are confident it will meet EU tests on state aid.

There is no final contract for Hinkley Point C yet.

As we negotiate that contract, we are taking strong legal advice at every step.”

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