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Published on September 19th, 2016 | by James Ayre

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Why Did Theresa May Approve “The Biggest White Elephant In British History” (Hinkley Point C Nuclear Project)?

September 19th, 2016 by  


As most of you reading this are probably aware, despite the UK’s Prime Minister, Theresa May, ordering of a review of the project a few months back, it appears that there was never a serious intent to cancel the project, as it was fully approved by May a few days ago, on September 15.

hinkley-point-c

Importantly, the guaranteed price of £92.50/MWh (megawatt-hour) of electricity will stay in place, despite this figure being much higher than the current market rate.

The EDF and Chinese-government-backed project is extremely expensive, possibly not even viable, as there are to date no working nuclear projects of the same design, etc. So, the question is, why go forward with it?

According to a report released by Greenpeace, the answer is pretty simple: The people who approved and pushed for the approval of the £18 billion (and rising) project stand to benefit from its approval. Financially.

This is probably the only way that the approval of the project makes any kind of sense (other than the obvious factor of pressure from the Chinese government). As Green Party MP Caroline Lucas put it, the Hinkley Point C project is “the biggest white elephant in British history,” so of course money is going to be found at the root of it.

The Canary provides more on the report, revealing that “ten advisers and civil servants who worked at the former Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) in the last five years had links to EDF. One was recently employed by the DECC and was also a manager at the Office for Nuclear Regulation, the regulator for the nuclear industry. This was before they became a licensing officer for EDF.”


 

Amazingly, an EDF Strategy Manager even had a “13-month secondment to the DECC commercial team while working for auditors KPMG. As Greenpeace notes, the DECC commercial team ‘played a crucial role in deciding to press ahead with the Hinkley project’. It was this team which had oversight on who invested in Hinkley Point C. Additionally, a communications officer for EDF was previously the Senior Ministerial Visits Manager at DECC until early 2016. And a policy adviser and analyst for the now-defunct department had previously done the same job at EDF. This is on top of the fact that former Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary, Ed Davey, now works as a lobbyist for MHP Communications — where EDF just happens to be a client.”

There’s quite a bit more as far as links go:

As Martin Williams describes in his book Parliament Ltd: A journey to the dark heart of British politics: When he lost his seat in 2015, he (Davey) went off to join MHP Communications. He had connections with the firm already: MHP acted as lobbyists for EDF Energy, who Davey “had dealings with as a minister”… When MHP’s Chief Executive announced Davey’s appointment he was able to speak candidly about the benefits of employing a former energy minister. “Ed’s unique insight into the energy sector will be particularly valuable to the companies that we work with in that sector. His knowledge of the top-level workings of Britain’s political system will also prove immensely useful to a range of our clients and to MHP itself”.

It was Davey who was responsible for the initial agreement between the government and EDF. But the links to EDF Energy and the Tory government run deeper than the Greenpeace analysis. And go right to the top of the Conservative Party.

Sir Richard Lambert heads EDF’s Stakeholder Advisory Panel. It gives EDF “strategic advice and direction”. Knighted under David Cameron, he’s a non-executive director of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, acting as lead advisor to the Foreign Secretary. He was in this role under Philip Hammond, who appears to have been crucial in getting the Hinkley deal pushed through… The Stakeholder Panel will be taking a particular interest in the final investment decision on Hinkley Point C. Also advising EDF is Dame Helen Alexander. She is a non-executive director at Rolls-Royce, which has £100m worth of contracts at Hinkley, Alexander is also the Deputy Chair of the “women on boards” review. She was appointed by Sajid Javid in February 2016.

Tory peer Lord Patten of Barnes is the former governor of Hong Kong and a former Conservative Party Chairman. But currently, he too sits on EDF Energy’s Stakeholder Advisory Panel. On 9 September, Patten co-authored an open letter to the Financial Times (FT), calling on May to “press ahead with Hinkley Point”.

Also on the EDF panel is Sir Simon Robertson. Another Tory peer, who is a party donor to the tune of £765,000, he was knighted in 2010, just after the Tories came to office. Robertson was also Deputy Chairman of HSBC until April 2016. In 2014, HSBC arranged the financial backing for EDF to carry out the project at Hinkley. Robertson also signed the letter in the FT. He is also a long-standing member of the Tory “Leader’s Group“. This “club” costs £50,000 a year to be a member of and gives access to the likes of May and Hammond at exclusive private dinners.

Amusingly, Theresa May’s husband stands to directly benefit from the project’s approval as well. As he works for the investment firm Capital Group, which possesses a ~10% stake in the French firm Schneider Electric, which has of course been granted a contract relating to the project.

Quite a web. Everybody seems to be standing to benefit from the project. Except, of course, the taxpayers of the UK, who will be covering the bill.

 
 





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About the Author

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.



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