Britain’s energy ministry has rejected a £1.2 billion plan by a major donor to the Conservative Party to build a 2GW power interconnector from Portsmouth to Normandy.
Viktor Fedetov’s development firm Aquind is now left pondering a legal challenge to the judgement, following news from the Planning Inspectorate that the project cannot proceed.
It failed to satisfy independent experts on issues concerning its routing and on technical issues related to its data capabilities.
The ‘nationally significant infrastructure project’ had promised capacity to carry as much as 5% of UK power consumption, and associated savings to consumers which it valued at £2.3 billion. Energy secretary Kwarteng’s endorsement of the Planning Inspectorate’s decision had been repeatedly delayed.
The Russian-born, UK-resident Fedetov was last year revealed by The Times as having donated through his company almost £500,000 to the Conservative Party.
His business partner Alexander Temerko, a fellow director of Aquind, supposedly lobbied five recent energy secretaries and junior ministers to advance the project, from Kwarteng to Andrea Leadsom, plus Lord Frost, then the government’s chief negotiator with the EU. Temerko reportedly asked Kwarteng to press Ofgem, the independent regulator, on the project’s behalf.
Penny Mordaunt, another Conservative energy minister and one of Portsmouth’s two MPs, was the latest to voice her opposition to the venture. She joined the city’s council, and another local MP, Labour’s Stephen Morgan, in objecting to the link due to its likely impact on traffic, soil composition and closeness to homes.
Thousands had signed a petition opposing its go-ahead. Pressure group Stop Aquind had opposed the pipe as a risk to national security, and saw its routing through Hampshire as a threat to wildlife habitats.
Greeting the scheme’s rejection, a statement on the group’s website added that it has“been shocked and angered that it has fallen on ordinary citizens ..to call out a major national security risk and be forced to hold Ministers to account for breaching standards in public life”.
“We will carry on campaigning for improved political accountability and the closing of legal loopholes that allow foreign money to influence political decision-making”, the group goes on.
“We do not want other communities to have to face a similar scenario”, Stop Aquind add.