Economic Impacts of Sizewell C – debunking EDF’s claims

Sizewell C’s claims on jobs and economic benefit to Suffolk “exaggerated” and “unrealistic”

3 September 2020: An independent review of EDF’s Economic Statement, assessing the impacts of Sizewell C to Suffolk’s local economy, has concluded that the project threatens “profitability and, in some cases, viability” of some local businesses, while others will be “at an immediate disadvantage when bidding for contracts”. 

The report, Sizewell Economic Statement – Response, by highly-regarded independent research and analysis consultancy Development Economics, reveals multiple areas where EDF’s claimed benefits are over-optimistic, unproven or misleading, frequently omitting evidence to support its figures or relying on “erroneous analysis”. It concludes, critically, that EDF’s Economic Statement “fails to meet the minimum requirements of the legislation”, with no serious attempt to measure the deterrent effect on tourists and their expenditure, traffic congestion or competition for skills and labour. The National Policy Statement EN-6 requires that applicants for major nuclear energy projects take into account potential pressures on local and regional resources, demographic change and economic benefit’. [paras 3.11.3 and 3.11.4]

Stop Sizewell C, which commissioned the report, shared the findings with prominent figures in the Suffolk economy, who reacted as follows:

James Hopkins, Executive Chairman of Denbury Homes, said: I was born on the Suffolk coast and have built my businesses here. It’s a special place that combines beautiful countryside, strong communities, vibrant towns and a thriving local economy. Sizewell C threatens all of this. This just isn’t the right place to build two more nuclear reactors. The road network is utterly inadequate. The 10,000 daily car journeys to the site alone will blight the villages. And if, as EDF themselves admit, a third of the local labour force will come from existing businesses, where does that leave companies like mine, that need those workers to build much needed homes? The Suffolk Coast will lose its sparkle if this monstrous project goes ahead.  And that’s not good for local people, for the visitors we welcome, and certainly not good for business.”

Andy Wood, Chief Executive of Adnams plc said: “Tourism is the lifeblood of our wonderful part of the country. It supports thousands of jobs and families across Suffolk making a huge contribution to the health and wellbeing of our economy. Over many years thousands of small family businesses have invested financially and emotionally to make this one of the best places in the UK to live, work and visit. We know these facts because they happen every year. All of this is threatened by an uncertain project at enormous scale and cost with highly questionable economic and environmental benefits. Once added to a legacy of more than 100 years to deal with its toxic waste the project becomes unsustainable, uneconomic and unwelcome”.

Harry Young, Chair of the Suffolk Coast Destination Management Organisation (DMO) said: “EDF Energy’s tourism study produced similar and worrying findings to the 2019 DMO report, but with no economic impact calculation.  The predicted reduction in visitor numbers suggests an existential threat to many businesses within this key industry.  The vast project, and intended road led strategy, would impact the visitor experience and alter the way many perceive the area, and we know that the majority of visitors come for peace and tranquillity.  If the project goes ahead, giving tourism businesses yet more challenge after the toughest of years, EDF’s promised mitigating Tourism Fund must be truly substantial.  However most businesses would prefer to avoid harm rather than repair damage.”

Key findings:

Employment: the report states that EDF’s claim of up to “2,410 jobs for Suffolk residents” in fact includes those travelling from up to 90 minutes away, which covers large population centres in Norfolk and Essex. These “local” workers will be the overwhelming source of lower skilled roles, expected to fill 90% of roles in “Site Support” eg cleaners, bus drivers and security guards, compared to only 8% of roles in “Professional and Management’. At peak construction 76% of the workforce will come from further away still, so will have to be accommodated in the area. 

EDF intends to recruit up to 725 workers from existing businesses in the area, dismissing this as “normal labour market churn”. The report says that this ignores the negative impacts on local businesses, “threatening both profitability and, in some cases, viability of these businesses.” Sizewell C is unlikely to have a significant impact on local unemployment. Development Economics believes that targets of hiring “up to 480 unemployed or economically inactive workers” locally are over-ambitious. Based on the lack of success at Sizewell C’s twin project at Hinkley Point C, where EDF has barely reached a quarter of the target, the consultancy believes “recruitment of the unemployed will struggle to reach 125”.

Tourism: The report points out that EDF’s own studies show that 29% of visitors are less likely to return to the area if Sizewell C goes ahead and 39% would visit the area less often, but EDF has not attempted to assess the impact of these reductions. Even allowing for a curious 13% of potential visitors who say they might visit more often, EDF’s surveys suggest a net 16% loss in visitors. 2019 tourism figures for the Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB published on 3 September 2020 record growth in overnight stays, numbers of jobs and an increase in the value of tourism to over £228m/year. These figures suggest that the findings of the DMO survey in 2019 – that predict losses of £24-40 million/year and 400 jobs – will if anything be an underestimate of the true impact on tourism; with EDF’s estimate of £2 million a year in income from workers staying in tourist accommodation during the build insignificant by comparison.

Supply chain opportunities: The report finds that EDF’s claims that £125 million per annum of project spend will benefit local Suffolk and Norfolk suppliers, as has been the case at Hinkley Point C, “simply does not stand up to scrutiny”. The Hinkley figures cover the whole of the South West of England and much of South Wales, with five times the number of businesses and workforce of Suffolk and Norfolk combined. 

The report also points out that EDF intends to re-deploy Hinkley’s established nuclear supply chain to save time, money and to minimise risk, so “Suffolk and Norfolk businesses are at an immediate disadvantage when bidding for… contracts since EDF will rely on its [Hinkley] contractors who have the experience to build Sizewell C”. These findings were consistent with the Nuclear Industry Association’s report published 2 September that stated “The supply chain that is serving Hinkley Point will also be in a strong position to bid for and win work with other developers in the UK”.  (p7)

Traffic: The report is scathing about how EDF’s Economic Statement does not even consider, let alone estimate, the effect of the huge and well-known increases in truck and car traffic and congestion caused by up to 12,000 extra vehicles a day will have on business deliveries, journeys to work and customer access. EDF claims to have adopted the “integrated” transport strategy in response to feedback at Stage 4 consultations, but in fact predicted HGV numbers are as high as under the “road led” strategy. 

Development Economics concludes that the lack of any serious attempt to quantify the financial consequences of Sizewell C’s impact on tourism means that EDF’s assessment of this sector is totally insufficient and fails to meet the Government’s minimum requirements in its National Policy Statement EN-6.

Alison Downes of Stop Sizewell C said in conclusion: “This report should give serious pause to any of our elected representatives who believe EDF’s hype that the benefits of Sizewell C will outweigh the negative impacts. The conclusion that EDF’s Economic Statement does not comply with legislation is damning, and makes a mockery of the government’s Nuclear Sector Deal, which is supposed to support “a lasting contribution to the communities that are host to nuclear facilities, both current and future.”