September 22, 2019

Hinkley Point ‘litmus test’ on post-Brexit investment in big infrastructure projects

The UK is already at growing risk of power shortages from our over-reliance on unpredictable renewables and our energy needs have not changed since last week says GMB.

Confirming the financial go-ahead of the Hinkley Point nuclear power station will be the first big litmus test that much-needed infrastructure UK projects will proceed, following the Brexit vote.

This is the message behind a letter from four trade unions – GMB, Unite, Ucatt, and Prospect – to the chief executive of EDF Energy, Vincent de Rivaz, as the French energy giant is poised to make the ‘final investment decision’ (FID) for the Somerset plant.

The letter said: “The UK trade unions are 100 per cent in support of Hinkley Point C and believe that it is vital to make a final investment decision in a timely fashion soon after the consultation process (between EDF and the French unions) is completed (on 4 July).

“Nuclear new build is already behind the curve; we cannot afford further delay and it is vital for EDF to make a final investment decision now.”

The unions regard the go-ahead for the £18bn project, which would generate seven per cent of UK electricity demand, as vital in terms of providing thousands of jobs and ‘keeping the lights on’ in the years ahead. Because of delays, the start date for electricity generation has been put back to 2025.

The letter continues: “From an energy perspective, the UK needs the electricity. We are rapidly losing capacity and this process will continue as the UK coal stations and nuclear stations reach the end of their operating lives.

“At the same time, we are committed to making a transition to a carbon-neutral balanced energy policy in the UK, including nuclear and renewables.

“Much is at stake in both France and the UK in terms of jobs, skills, social dialogue, industrial capability and prosperity into the future.”

The unions laid out a template of what needs to happen for the future Hinkley Point workforce which includes: jobs based on direct employment; a radical new approach to recruitment to deliver a diverse workforce to attract those who have historically not been well-represented in engineering and construction, notably women; and high-quality terms and conditions of employment for union members.

The letter has been signed by the four general secretaries: Tim Roache (GMB); Len McCluskey (Unite); Brian Rye (Ucatt); and Mike Clancy (Prospect).

The letter adds: “It would be a tragedy, in both France and the UK, if all this work and the extraordinary opportunities it provides were to be lost.

“The moment to make the decision is upon us and we have a genuine fear that any further delay will lead to the unravelling of all that we have fought so hard achieve.”

Justin Bowden, GMB National Secretary, said: “The decision to get on and build Hinkley Point C must be made now, without further delay. The UK is already at growing risk of power shortages from our over-reliance on unpredictable renewables and our energy needs have not changed since last week. The UK must have a balanced, low carbon energy mix including renewables, gas and nuclear power if we are to keep the lights on, our homes heated and the economy functioning.”

Kevin Coyne, Unite national officer for energy, said: “The final investment decision by EDF Energy in Hinkley Point will be the first litmus test, following the Brexit vote that much-needed investment in large infrastructure projects is still coming on stream.”

Brian Rye, acting general secretary of UCATT, said: “This is a vitally needed and ground breaking project. The decision on the final go-ahead on Hinkley will demonstrate whether foreign-owned companies are still prepared to invest in the UK. The government needs to ensure that they get this deal over the line.”