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 November 2023 the government spent £679 million to become a co-owner of Sizewell C’s development. This, along with £100million gifted in January 2022, is eating into the £1.7bn earmarked for getting a largescale nuclear project to a Final Investment Decision by the end of the current parliament.
EDF and the Government are now working towards achieving a Final Investment Decision. The timeframe for this is anything between end 2023 and end 2024. Both parties are expected to take a 20% equity stake in construction, costing them approx £2bn each, but they still have billions of pounds to find.
The Nuclear Energy (Financing) Bill, passed in March 2022, enables Sizewell C to use the controversial Regulated Asset Base (RAB) funding 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 and insurers to urge them not to invest in Sizewell C. Here is what we know so far…
Legal & General said: “L&G 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. In November 2022 CEO Nigel Wilson told Radio 4 “We are not big fans of Sizewell C”
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]
BT Pension Scheme said “I am happy to inform you that we have no investment or exposure to Sizewell C, nor do we plan to in the future.” [Letter to policyholder, November 2022]
NatWest Pensions has told the Daily Mail they do not plan to invest.
Tesco Pensions: “We can confirm that the Scheme has no investments in EDF (who are the parent company for Sizewell C) and has no immediate plans to invest in the company.” [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 you can write your own letter or use/adapt the sample text below. You can read also a letter Stop Sizewell C sent to Andy Briggs of the Phoenix Group or find out more about our ESG concerns here.
“I am writing to seek your assurance that your company will not invest in Sizewell C, given the clear and present financial, ESG and reputational risks. The track record of similar projects show that large nuclear plants will inevitably run late, significantly over-budget and deliver inconsistent energy solutions. This at a time when climate change and energy sit squarely at the foreground of the global cost of living crisis. Sizewell C has serious ESG implications, which are relevant even if the UK Treasury succeeds in erroneously rebranding nuclear as ‘green’. Such a move will be highly controversial, and – as in the European Union – very likely to be challenged in the courts.
I understand that Legal & General, Nest, BT Pensions and NatWest have already said they won’t invest, and I urge you to join them. Stephen Vaughan of EDF’s financial advisers Rothschild & Co said: ”[Funds] are 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.”
As someone whose retirement savings are managed by you, I am very interested in how my money is being invested. Therefore, I am requesting that you write back to me to confirm whether or not you will invest in Sizewell C.”
Please let us know of any replies you receive, firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.