China tightens its grip on UK energy supply: Beijing-controlled firms invest in string of wind farms and nuclear projects
Chinese state firms could soon be involved in providing one quarter of Britain’s power consumption, startling research claims.
Beijing-controlled companies have invested, or are seeking to invest, in a string of UK wind farms and nuclear projects, including the plant under construction at Hinkley Point and others planned at Sizewell and Bradwell.
It could mean that China Three Gorges, China Resources Power, the State Development & Investment Corporation and China General Nuclear have a hand in projects providing 8,660 megawatts of power to Britain – equivalent to 25 per cent of average demand and 16 per cent of peak demand.
Power broker: Beijing-controlled companies have invested, or are seeking to invest, in a string of UK wind farms and nuclear projects
The firms would only have a controlling interest in two projects but could still wield significant influence over others with stakes of between 10 per cent and 33 per cent, the Henry Jackson Society said.
Yesterday Alan Mendoza, the think-tank’s executive director, said: ‘With China continuing to increase tensions with the UK, it would be sheer madness to hand Chinese firms control over enough of our electricity market to literally switch off the lights.
‘Our power supply is critical national infrastructure and the Government must make sure that hostile states have no stake in it.’
The revelations are likely to strengthen calls for tougher foreign investment rules as well, which have been proposed by ministers to more closely scrutinise deals involving ‘hostile states’ such as China and Russia.
MPs are already calling for a wholesale overhaul of UK-China relations, amid accusations that Beijing covered up the initial spread of coronavirus and anger over its brutal crackdown on Hong Kong.
That has prompted calls from some senior Tories, including former party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, to rethink China’s role in several planned nuclear projects.
The think-tank has highlighted 115 UK companies that have been partly or wholly acquired by Chinese firms in the past decade, with more than a third in high-tech industries prioritised by the country’s communist leadership.
The Government’s new National Security and Investment Bill, laid in Parliament last week, will make it mandatory for foreign investors to report the attempted takeover of British companies in 17 sectors, including energy, defence and technology sectors such as artificial intelligence and microchips.
China’s recovery from the coronavirus crisis gathered pace during the third quarter as factory production boomed. Factory output grew by 6.9 per cent in October compared to the same month last year.
Latest figures support forecasts that the country’s economy will grow by 2 per cent this year.