France’s EDF has again revised up the expected cost of Hinkley Point C, the nuclear power station under construction in south-west England, warning delays arising from the coronavirus pandemic will add around £500m and will push back the station’s estimated start-up date to 2026.
The group, which is financing the construction of the plant along with its junior partner CGN of China, said it is expecting the project to cost up to £23bn compared with a previous estimate in 2019 of a maximum of £22.5bn. EDF quotes costs in 2015 prices in order to maintain consistency for the markets but the real bill is likely to be higher after accounting for inflation.
It said on Wednesday that the first electricity is now expected in June 2026, against a previous hope to start generating by the end of 2025. It has not been able to catch up work that was postponed last year at the height of the first lockdown in the UK.
“Ten months after it began, we are still facing the full force of the pandemic,” Stuart Crooks, the managing director of Hinkley Point C, said in a message to employees on Wednesday.
“Even though experience has allowed us to increase numbers on site during the pandemic from below 2,000 to more than 5,000, social distancing requirements still limit the number of people we can safely have on site at any one time,” he said.
Mr Crooks added that “a longer construction period also adds some cost — as does the reduced efficiency of operating a site for a long period under Covid-19 conditions”.
However he insisted: “None of this extra cost is carried by British consumers.”
EDF’s former UK chief executive Vincent de Rivaz once promised Britons would be cooking their turkeys using power from the plant in 2017.
The French company is in talks with the UK government to build another plant, Sizewell C in Suffolk, although it has made clear that a different financing model will be required for construction. Ministers are examining taking a direct stake in Sizewell C as well as using a “regulated asset base” model that would involve consumers paying upfront through their energy bills.