EDF invests £10m in two engineering skills hubs

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The Independent Online

EDF is spending £10m on two dedicated "campuses" to boost British engineering skills and support the group's plans to build new nuclear power stations.

The French energy group is talking to schools and universities, as well as other industry players, about two centres – one near Bristol, one at an undecided location in the South-east – to be up and running by the end of the year.

Vincent de Rivaz, the EDF chief executive, said: "There is not a single employee whose career will not benefit from this scheme."

The initiative is part of EDF's sustainability strategy, launched today, which sets out 18 targets including cutting carbon emissions from electricity production by 60 per cent by 2020 and "transparency" in the group's nuclear business.

The energy industry is struggling to improve a public image tarnished by associations with climate change. "Our sustainability strategy is about saying we have to be perceived not as part of the problem but as part of the solution," Mr de Rivaz said.

Public perceptions are not the only potential difficulty for EDF. The new Government's Coalition Agreement attempts to paper over the two parties' diametrically opposing views on nuclear power. But the appointment of the Liberal Democrat Chris Huhne, an outspoken critic of nuclear, as Energy Secretary caused consternation in some quarters. And although the Government quickly agreed to a carbon price floor to help private sector investment in nuclear power, sceptics say the move will not be enough.

Mr de Rivaz is keen to brush off any concerns. "I am not nervous at all," he said, describing Mr Huhne as "a man of integrity, a man we can do business with". He also stressed that EDF's initial plans for four new nuclear reactors are "on track", although he refused to be drawn on the financing for the scheme.