Wednesday, 24 September 2008

UK Nuclear Industry goes to France

In various reports and papers I've pointed out that a major reason that companies are looking to become more energy-efficient and to rely more on renewable sources is the increasing threat to energy security. The escalating cost is a large part of that, but so too is the over-reliance on gas and petrol supplies controlled by other countries, particularly where social and political events are more likely to interrupt the flow. This is the case for Western Europe, dependent on supplies from Russia delivered across a number of countries.

In that context it seems odd that the British Energy Group has today been sold to French government-owned Electricite de France (EDF).

There are lots of good reasons for the deal, not least that the UK will get overseas investment to help build a new generation of nuclear power stations in the UK (EDF is the world's largest nuclear utility). The UK sorely needs more nuclear power, generally accepted to be the Greenest option available to bridge a potential enegy gap in the not-too-distant future (although Greenpeace would disagree). The British government also gets its 36% stake in the company back as a result of the sale and Centrica, the UK's largest energy supplier, is also negotiating to buy a 25% stake in what was British Energy.

But the bare facts are that British Energy, and now EDF, owns eight of the UK’s ten operational reactors, which probably includes all the sites for the next generation plants, and is being sold to a company 70% owned by the French state.

Now I'm not suggesting that the company will in any way interfere with the supply of energy into the UK. But all countries work in the best interests of their citizens and who knows where that may lead in the future. All you can say is that if a UK company attempted a deal in the other direction it would almost certainly be blocked by the French government. So we don't even start from a level playing field.

© The Green IT Review

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