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UK could cope if Hinkley Point was delayed, Business Secretary claims

Rhiannon Curry
Hinkley Point could now be delayed until 2027

The UK would have enough energy if nuclear plant Hinkley Point was further delayed, Business Secretary Greg Clark has told a House of Lords committee, as he admitted the Government has no target for nuclear energy use in the future.

French state-owned EDF, which is building the power station, last year said the project could be completed as much as 15 months behind schedule. The 3.2GW plant was expected to start delivering power to the national grid in 2025 but could now be delayed to 2027, a decade after the first start date proposed by EDF.

But Mr Clark, who appeared in front of the Lords economic affairs select committee as part of an inquiry into UK energy policy on Tuesday, said he was confident that future supplies could be maintained.

“[The power station] is still in the early days of construction and estimates will be updated and sometimes things go slower and different phases go faster,” he said, adding that government energy auctions were producing “the ability to provide power should we need it”.

It is hoped Hinkley would provide as much as 7pc of the country's energy by the middle of next decade.

Jeremy Pocklington, the Government’s director general for energy and security, who appeared with Mr Clark in front of the Lords committee, said: “It’s a very complex market that we are thinking about and considering here, and ultimately if Hickley is late, and I have no reason sat here today to believe it will be, then there are a number of other things that can happen in this market.”

Hinkley somerset life

Asked how much of the UK’s energy supply he expected to come from nuclear over the next two decades, Mr Clark said he didn’t have “a particular target for the contributions of nuclear”.

“It continues to be our policy to seek a broad mix of different supplies of energy for the future,” he added.

Mr Pocklington denied that the Government could move to bail Hinkley out if it goes wrong, after chair of the committee Lord Forsyth suggested that like the banks and collapsed outsourcer Carillion, Hinkley was seen as “too big to fail” by ministers.

“We have a very developed series of governance that makes sure that we have proper oversight of the project,” he said, adding that Government representatives held quarterly meetings with EDF and its partner China General Nuclear Power Group. “Consumers do not pay a penny until the plant is operational,” he added.

Mr Clark also told the committee that every new power plant will have to go through a “value for money assessment”, but that he felt it was right to proceed with the UK's nuclear programme as a "strategic part of the mix".