Boss of Welsh plant vows to undercut Hinkley Point

The boss of the £14bn Horizon nuclear project has told ministers a new power station in North Wales could produce electricity at half the price of Hinkley.

John Collingridge  www.thetimes.co.uk 

Japanese industrial giant Hitachi has been trying to build a power station on Anglesey since 2012, spending more than £2.5bn, and wants a new funding model for nuclear that would slash costs but heap more risk onto taxpayers.

EDF’s long-delayed and over-budget Hinkley Point station in Somerset guarantees the French power giant a controversial price of £92.50 per megawatt hour.

Duncan Hawthorne, boss of Horizon, is understood to have written to Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s influential adviser, saying it could produce power at £55 per mwh — dropping to £44 if two more reactors were added. Hawthorne said it would produce 20 terawatt hours of electricity a year — enough to meet the entire power needs of Wales.

Ministers consulted last year on a new funding model for nuclear, the regulated asset base (RAB), but it is unclear whether it will be included in Wednesday’s budget. The model, used by Heathrow and the £4.2bn Thames Tideway “super sewer”, lets investors receive returns before a project is built. However, that means households and business would be paying for the plant years before it was generating electricity. Last year, Hitachi suspended significant work on Horizon after funding talks with the government broke down.

Hawthorne told Cummings that the power station could be connected to the grid by 2028 and help cut carbon emissions. Ministers have yet to publish a promised energy white paper and face a steep challenge to replace ageing coal and nuclear power stations while achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050. A boom in electric cars is expected to pile huge strain on the power grid.

Most of Britain’s nuclear fleet, which is co-owned by EDF and Centrica, is due to close in the next decade, depriving the UK of a stable slice of carbon-free power. Companies including Hitachi and Rolls-Royce also want the RAB model to be used for a fleet of small nuclear stations.