Johnson to make energy speech amid reports he will sign off Sizewell C project

·3-min read
Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Peter Byrne/PA) (PA Wire)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Peter Byrne/PA) (PA Wire)

Boris Johnson is to predict the UK will enjoy a future involving “cheap, clean, reliable and plentiful” energy, amid reports he will confirm the sign-off for a new nuclear power station.

The outgoing Prime Minister will deliver a speech on the country’s energy future on Thursday against the backdrop of soaring energy prices fuelling a cost-of-living crisis.

Mr Johnson will seek to claim his Government has taken the decisions to help boost home-grown energy supplies and reduce exposure to international gas market and price spikes.

He is also widely expected to provide further assurances over the Sizewell C project in Suffolk before leaving office.

The big decisions this Government has made on our energy future will bequeath a United Kingdom where energy is cheap, clean, reliable and plentiful, and made right here on British soil

Boris Johnson

When asked if he will sign off Sizewell C in its entirety before he departs next week, Mr Johnson told reporters on Wednesday: “Sadly, you are going to have to wait and contain your excitement on that until later this week.”

The Financial Times reported confirmation is expected this week that the UK Government will take a 20% stake in the project in a bid to give confidence to investors about the country’s commitment to new nuclear power stations.

It added French state-owned EDF, the project developer, is set to take another 20% stake as part of efforts to remove a Chinese state-backed nuclear energy company from the project.

Whitehall sources last week confirmed the Prime Minister and Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi have given the go-ahead for financing for the construction of Sizewell C.

Private funding will be sought for the project estimated to cost £20-£30 billion, with the Government’s stake costing up to £6 billion.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, who is tipped to be Liz Truss’s chancellor if she wins the Tory leadership race, is said to be “massively” on board with the plan.

But some within Ms Truss’s camp have raised concerns amid fears a decision by Mr Johnson could tie the hands of his successor.

Development consent for Sizewell C was given the go-ahead by Mr Kwarteng in July, but negotiations over the financial investment decision were ongoing.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Peter Nicholls/PA) (PA Wire)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Peter Nicholls/PA) (PA Wire)

Mr Johnson, in a speech on Thursday, will look to focus on the steps the Government has taken during his time in office.

In a sign Mr Johnson is trying to further press the case for his perceived legacy during his tenure in Downing Street, he is expected to say: “The situation we face today is deeply worrying, but this Government has already stepped in to help with billions of pounds in support.

“And our British Energy Security Strategy is not just about meeting demand today but many years hence.

“The big decisions this Government has made on our energy future will bequeath a United Kingdom where energy is cheap, clean, reliable and plentiful, and made right here on British soil.

“A future where families and businesses are never again at the mercy of international markets or foreign despots.”

Shadow climate change and net zero secretary Ed Miliband described the PM’s words as “hollow” and “an insult to millions of families facing an energy bill crisis”.

He added: “Whilst the oil and gas giants rake in record profits, Boris Johnson and his zombie government put their interests ahead of the British people.

“And one of the reasons bills are so high is the appalling legacy this government has on clean power. They blocked onshore wind, failed to deliver a warm homes plan to cut bills, and delayed on expanding solar and nuclear power.

“Boris Johnson leaves office with energy bills rocketing, our energy security weakened, and having totally failed to confront the climate crisis.”

The Stop Sizewell C campaign group has previously criticised “lame duck PM” Mr Johnson for pushing ahead with the project and wants his successor to ask for the decision to be looked at again.

It warns the project will not light a single lightbulb for at least a decade and taxpayers’ money can be better spent elsewhere.