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Business Comment

Mark Leftly: Nuclear job done for KPMG luminary Stone

Outlook Rumours suggest that Tim Stone, KPMG's former global head of infrastructure, has not renewed his contract as the Government's expert adviser on new nuclear.

The timing will fascinate nuclear's many critics, given that the new build programme suffered a blow earlier this week when Centrica finally confirmed that it would not join EDF in pouring billions into building and operating a station at Hinkley Point. There was even an emergency debate held in the Commons, which looked to scupper the Government's talks with EDF over the guaranteed minimum price the French giant will be paid for the electricity it will generate there.

There are two ways of looking at this: either Mr Stone is leaving because he knows the programme is doomed, or he has achieved what he set out to do. The latter would mean that the Government and EDF have all but agreed what is known as a "strike price", which means the French group gets the guaranteed return it needs to persuade shareholders that UK nuclear is worth investing in.

I understand that is indeed the case, and that the strike price will be announced before Mr Stone leaves at the end of next month. A number of £95 to £99.50-odd per megawatt hour has been virtually signed, sealed and delivered, which nuclear's supporters will claim makes it the cheapest form of clean energy available on any scale to the country.

That, coupled with Mr Collins' ambition over equality, would mark two significant triumphs for senior figures at the Big Four accountant. The timing couldn't be better: another former highly regarded KPMG star is Vicky Pryce, whose last marriage to the former cabinet minister responsible for nuclear, Chris Huhne, is currently being so publicly picked apart in court.