China to have 33.5% stake in new UK nuclear plant

In about 10 years, six million British homes will be powered with electricity from Hinkley Point C, the first nuclear power station to be built on British soil in more than two decades.

The mega-project, in which a Chinese consortium holds a 33.5-per cent stake under a deal signed in London in the presence of visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping and British Prime Minister David Cameron, epitomizes the close cooperation between the two countries in the energy sector, reports Xinhua.

The latest example of the ever deepening and diversified China-Britain energy cooperation, which features an increasing share of clean power resources, also gives body to their shared resolve to combat the common threat of climate change.

Located in southwestern England with an estimated construction cost of £18 billion, Hinkley Point C is now expected to start operating in 2025 with a 3.3-gigawatt total capacity, larger than the output of any existing single plant in Britain.

Xi hailed the enterprise as a flagship project of China-Britain cooperation, while Cameron called the investment deal "historic." It marks the first time for Chinese companies to participate in civil nuclear projects in Europe.

Both countries stand to benefit from the deal. For China, it unlocks the potential for Chinese firms to play a bigger role in Britain's energy market and for China to export its nuclear technologies and equipment to other parts of the world. For Britain, it heralds a rejuvenation of the country's aging nuclear power system with Chinese investment - and more jobs.

Vincent de Rivaz, CEO of EDF Energy, the British affiliation to French power giant EDF and the senior partner in the Hinkley Point C project, noted that the deal marks the "biggest inward investment in British history" with the creation of up to 25,000 jobs during the plant's construction.

"I accept that not everyone is persuaded that it is a good thing," he said, while stressing that he is convinced the project "is an industrial opportunity with benefits reaching far beyond a single nuclear power station in Somerset."

Nuclear cooperation, meanwhile, is not all in the bilateral energy cooperation portfolio. In line with the global trend of curbing pollutants emissions and pursuing low-carbon development, China and Britain have also been steering their energy cooperation towards clean and renewable resources.

The two sides have in recent years signed massive business deals on natural gas, carried out fruitful cooperation in solar and wind power, and pioneered in exploring tidal wave power generation.

Among the business contracts signed during Xi's recent state visit to Britain is a multi-billion-dollar supply deal of liquefied natural gas (LNG) between British oil giant BP and Huadian, China's largest gas-fired power producer.

In June, state-owned Chinese company China Harbor Engineering Company (CHEC) won a R$460-million contract to build the world's first tidal energy power plant in Britain's Swansea Bay, which is expected to generate power enough for 120,000 homes.

In December 2014, China General Nuclear (CGN), the company that leads the Chinese consortium in the Hinkley Point C project, acquired an 80-percent stake in three British onshore wind farms from EDF.

In June 2014, during Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's visit to Britain, BP signed with Chinese offshore oil producer CNOOC a 20-billion-dollar LNG supply contract. Under the deal, BP would supply up to 1.5 million tonnes of LNG per year for 20 years starting in 2019.

In April 2014, a 12-megawatt solar power plant invested and built by Chinese company Avic International was delivered to the British side. The Spriggs solar farm has been connected to the grid since March and its daily output in summer time can satisfy the power needs of 2,500 families.

According to a recent report released by Pinsent Masons, a full-service international law firm based in London, with more Chinese investment streaming into British infrastructure, the energy sector will be the largest beneficiary, particularly nuclear energy, wind power and solar power.