One of Sizewell C’s biggest challenges is to secure financing. Construction is likely to cost up to £30bn of which approximately £10bn is expected to be equity and the remainder debt.
In October 2021 the government earmarked £1.7bn for getting a largescale nuclear project to a Final Investment Decision by the end of the current parliament. Ministers have already given away £800m of this – former Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng announced £100m in January 2022 and former Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged £700m in September 2022, although no details of the latter pledge have been published. It has been reported that the UK government and EDF are planning to jointly own the project, ejecting China General Nuclear, up to Final Investment Decision, (expected mid to late 2023), at which point they would would take a 20% equity stake in construction, costing them approx £2bn.
In March 2022 the Nuclear Energy (Financing) Bill received royal assent, which would enable use of the controversial Regulated Asset Base (RAB) model. This is essentially a nuclear tax on the UK public’s energy bills that would give a guaranteed, immediate return to investors in Sizewell C, and pushes the risk of overruns and overspends onto consumers. EDF hopes this reduced risk for investors will attract UK pension funds, and is aiming for the plant to be majority-owned by UK investors.
Stop Sizewell C has been writing to pension funds to urge them not to invest in Sizewell C. Here is what we know so far…
Legal & General said: “Legal and General will not be investing in the Sizewell C nuclear power plant.” [Letter to policyholder] See Sizewell C proves to be a turn-off for City giant Legal & General.
NEST pensions said: “Right now, Nest does not invest directly into nuclear infrastructure and we have no plans to in the foreseeable future. When we went looking for our new infrastructure managers earlier this year, we specifically excluded nuclear infrastructure projects. We anticipate we’ll be with these managers for many years to come.” [Letter to policyholder]
Prudential: it is “extremely unlikely Sizewell C would be the sort of project we would directly invest in.” [AGM, May 2021]
But the following companies have not ruled it out:
Aviva said: As you are probably aware, the UK government is looking at expanding nuclear capacity as part of its efforts to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. We consider the potential ESG impact in all of our investment decisions. However, the ESG impact of nuclear is far from clear at this time and we are not actively involved in any such investments. BUT subsequently Aviva said it will take part in the ESG debate about nuclear, and has not yet decided on Sizewell C.
Phoenix Group CEO Andy Briggs, which owns Standard Life, Sun Life and others, said in 2021 “At this time the ESG impact of nuclear is not clear and as such we have no plans to actively pursue direct investment to fund the proposed Sizewell C project if it goes ahead.” BUT in October 2022 Mr Briggs told the Sunday Telegraph “it’s something we would consider.“
Abrdn: “we do not have an explicit exclusion policy on nuclear. …Given its health and safety risks and varied policy support, we wouldn’t actively seek to include nuclear in an investment product focused on climate solutions. However, where an investment that focuses on renewables also has nuclear in the energy mix, we would not exclude it if a clear transition plan was in place to phase out nuclear.”
USS said: “we are interested in a potential future investment in new nuclear generation in the UK – as long as we are satisfied that the risk-reward characteristics represent value for USS and its members.”
Scottish Widows/Lloyds Banking Group: “We would potentially look at it, subject to meeting our criteria, and ESG is one of those” [address to Global Infrastructure Investor summit by Adil Jiwa, Director of Infrastructure Debt, June 2022].
Other infrastructure investors that have expressed an interest in Sizewell C include Greencoat Capital, Brookfield, Rothesay and Centrica.
Additionally Barclays has been tasked by the UK government to help find investors.
How You Can Help: If you have a pension, insurance policy, shares in a pension company/investment company or a Barclays bank account, please write to them. You can do this in a number of ways:
a) via a handy online tool from Sum of Us https://actions.sumofus.org/a/ask-your-pension-provider-or-fund-manager-about-sizewell-c/
b) writing directly to your primary contact or customer services, giving your policy number/shareholding/account details as proof you are their customer. You may need to do this if your pension is not included in the online action above.
c) write via your Independent Financial Adviser (IFA) if you have one, especially if you are unsure whether you have any investments in a company that may be considering Sizewell C.
What to say: Ask for the company’s assurance that they have no intention of investing in the controversial nuclear project Sizewell C (or in the case of Barclays that they should not help find investors for Sizewell C). You do not need to justify your question at length but some suggestions are below. You can read also a letter Stop Sizewell C sent to Andy Briggs of the Phoenix Group. Please put all points in your own words.
- Point to the press attention given to Sizewell C and urge them to follow the example of Legal & General; surely they do not wish to court controversy? [Stephen Vaughan of EDF’s financial advisers Rothschild & C has said: “[Funds] are worried about what their pensioners think or their savers. They’re worried about what their employees and their customers think….These are going to be big, high-profile investments that investors do not want to be controversial.”]
- State that you believe it will be incompatible with (what you hope are) the company’s very robust ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) policies, eg
- Environmental – nuclear energy is not green, as radioactive waste does significant harm to the environment. Sizewell C is surrounded by protected landscapes and internationally important wildlife habitats, including RSPB Minsmere.
- Social – there is well-founded opposition in local communities due to the impacts of Sizewell C. The RAB/nuclear tax during construction is controversial: even consumers that have chosen 100% renewable energy will be forced to pay it. Green levies have been suspended from energy bills so how can it be justified to add a nuclear levy?
- Governance – no one knows who will own Sizewell C as EDF wants to reduce its share to no more than 20% of equity. Even if others pay for Sizewell C, EDF must be the ones to build it, and they are under considerable pressure, with major problems in the French fleet, half of which has been offline over the summer, and plans for more new builds in France. As a company shortly to be fully renationalised, what will take priority? Sizewell C or projects in France? The continued involvement of China General Nuclear in the project is mired in controversy.
- Now widely expect to cost £30bn than the quoted £20 billion, Sizewell C is very expensive and would suck vital investment away from the development of green transformative technologies, such as green hydrogen.
- Sizewell C is too slow to contribute to net zero. It will take up to 12 years to build, and the carbon footprint of construction is 3.7Mt million tonnes of CO2, which will take nearly 4 years to offset, meaning Sizewell C cannot positively contribute to net zero until the late 2030s.
- The EPR technology is deeply problematic and new builds of this type of reactor have been significantly delayed. Taishan I in China was offline for 12 months after suffering fuel failure early in its operational life.
More suggestions are available from our one page briefing “Why Stop Sizewell C” and of course feel free to add your own reasons for opposing the project.
Please let us know of any replies you receive, email@example.com. If you know anyone with connections to these companies who could help us get our message to senior management, please let us know on the above email.