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EDF’s priorities for the next UK Government: a call to action

Paul Spence, Director of Strategy and Corporate Affairs | EDF

8 min read Partner content

Whoever the next government may be, they will oversee a critical chapter on the UK’s journey to net zero and the battle against climate change.

EDF is pleased to share our manifesto, setting out our priorities for the next UK government. 

The next government will need to act quickly to equip Britain with policies that reinvigorate the economy, boost our industrial strength, create jobs and secure Britain’s energy supplies.

In energy, we support policies that will deliver:

  • A fair and competitive retail market.
  • A rapid transition to a decarbonised, cost-effective and secure electricity system.
  • A skilled workforce to deliver the UK’s energy transition.

Delivering net zero will also depend on close and effective partnership between government and industry. To this end, at EDF we see our purpose as helping Britain to achieve net zero. We are proud to already be playing our part as the UK’s largest zero-carbon generator, a key energy supplier to British businesses and households and a pioneer in innovative energy solutions.

In our 25 years of operating in the UK we’ve invested £25 billion into the country. By 2035 we’ll go even further, enabling £50 billion to develop 15GW of zero-carbon electricity – nuclear, wind and solar.

A fair and competitive retail market

The energy retail market will be at the forefront of driving the change needed to help Britain achieve its net zero ambitions. We are seeing customers increasingly becoming not only users, but also producers and storers of power – playing a key part in delivering greater flexibility across the whole energy system.

But enabling customers to do this, and to genuinely engage in energy, will require a retail energy market that makes net zero easy for all and where low carbon energy is readily available at a fair price.

Despite recent reductions, household energy bills remain nearly double pre-energy crisis levels, and this is expected to be the case well into the next Parliament. We need to ensure that energy is affordable for those most in need, and we see an important role for a social tariff in providing enduring financial support for those that need it.

Alongside this, the next government needs to press ahead with price cap reform, moving to a genuine ‘backstop’ price cap that protects customers from excessive costs but allows suppliers to invest for the benefit of customers, and one that supports a net zero retail market.

It is often said that the cheapest energy is that we do not use. The next government will need to move faster on ramping up the delivery of energy efficiency improvements and the adoption of low carbon technologies, such as heat pumps and batteries. Key to this is addressing the fact that electricity is currently more expensive than gas, meaning cleaner energy choices, like heat pumps, are unfairly more expensive than polluting fossil fuel alternatives – largely as a result of government policy costs on electricity bills.

Finally, enabling customers to take control of their energy will require us to move to a much smarter energy system, and at the heart of this must be the successful completion of the smart meter rollout. Without a fresh approach from government, there is a real risk the rollout will remain incomplete, undermining net zero.

A rapid transition to a decarbonised, cost-effective and secure electricity system

At EDF, we are proud to be playing a leading role in delivering a decarbonised, cost-effective, secure electricity system. Our existing nuclear fleet continues to provide the backbone of Britain’s electricity security. EDF’s 15-year investment in the UK’s nuclear fleet has meant that the stations have generated over 35% (212TWh) more electricity than initially forecast at the time of acquisition – enough to power all UK homes continuously for 2 years, while saving an additional 74 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere and maintaining vital nuclear skills. We ask a future government to work with us on delivering our ambitions to extend the operating life of these stations to continue to deliver secure, zero-carbon, cost-effective energy for consumers.

We are also leading the UK’s nuclear renaissance with our new nuclear project at Hinkley Point C – the first nuclear plant to be built in the UK in a generation. Once operational, Hinkley Point C will produce enough zero-carbon power for six million homes, around 7% of the UK’s electricity generation. Hinkley Point C will also help pave the way for future nuclear projects, including Sizewell C.

Our experience of developing and building Hinkley Point C is that going first is difficult, and harder than we initially envisioned. Relearning nuclear skills, creating a new supply chain and training a workforce has been an immense task which others will benefit from for decades to come. The lesson on nuclear, and the same goes for renewables, is always to ‘build and repeat’ an already built design with as few changes as possible. This helps to bring costs and risk down, as expertise, supply chains and skills are developed. We are seeing performance improve by 20-30% when we repeat work carried out on Hinkley Point C’s Unit 1 on our identical Unit 2.

Following the publication of the Government’s Roadmap for Nuclear and the commitment to grow the role of nuclear, we ask government to ensure that a delivery body (Great British Nuclear or an equivalent) is enabled to reach rapid decisions on siting, reactor technologies, and financing (including nuclear in the UK green taxonomy) to bring forward new nuclear beyond Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C. This should build on the current SMR competition and develop a coherent pipeline of projects covering large scale, small and advanced technologies.

Through EDF Renewables, we operate more than 1.5GW of solar, battery, onshore and offshore wind. Our contribution to the UK’s energy supply is set to expand with almost 14GW of projects in planning and development, including wind, battery and solar. Contracts for Difference (CfDs) have enabled the growth of renewable projects and given the sector certainty. But now reform is needed to ensure that renewables can continue to be deployed at the scale and pace required. Political direction and will, alongside a stronger CfD budget, is required to encourage new, emerging technologies such as floating wind into the renewable mix, as well as supporting existing technologies.

Other key enablers in this area include:

  • Developing a flexible grid – We cannot decarbonise the energy system at the scale and pace we need to meet net zero without significant work to speed up planning and construction of grid infrastructure.
  • Making gradual changes to improve the wholesale market – By building on the existing national wholesale market framework, we can deliver real benefits for consumers quickly without jeopardising low carbon investment through more disruptive reforms such as nodal or zonal pricing.
  • Reforming the planning system – Currently the UK’s planning regime is neither efficient nor proportionate, and urgent reform is needed to be able to deliver the net zero infrastructure we need.

A skilled workforce to deliver the UK’s energy transition

A skilled and diverse energy workforce is critical to power the UK towards net zero – and significant investment will be needed into the nation’s labour force to ensure it is fit for the future.

At EDF, we are already playing our part in that aspiration, developing workers across the energy sector in new, green skills. At our new nuclear project at Hinkley Point C, 8,000 people have already been trained at three new “Centres of Excellence,” with a third of them coming from Britain’s most deprived areas. They are learning skills desperately needed in the British economy – skills they can take to other jobs and businesses as they develop their careers. The project has also trained 1,320 apprentices so far, well above the initial target of 1,000. More information can be found in the latest edition of Hinkley Point C’s annual Socio-economic Impact Report.

What’s been achieved at Hinkley Point C is a great example of the art of the possible, but there is still much to be done. The right policies can turn the challenge of staffing the energy transition into a fantastic opportunity. These include:

  • Harnessing the talents of communities under-represented in energy.
  • A new central skills oversight body for the nuclear sector.
  • Building of common competence pathways within the nuclear and construction sectors.

As a long-term partner to Britain, we’re committed to working with the next UK government to tackle climate change, while seizing the opportunities for growth for Britain. Together, we can achieve impactful change - transitioning to a decarbonised, cost-effective, secure electricity system, developing a skilled, diverse energy workforce and ensuring a fair, competitive retail market where customers can save cash, reduce carbon, and are supported to use energy wisely. The time for action is now.

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