British Energy

From Powerbase
Jump to: navigation, search
Nuclear spin.png This article is part of the Nuclear Spin project of Spinwatch.

British Energy Group (BE) was the UK's largest independent energy generator until 2009 when it was taken over by the mainly French-state owned EDF Energy. BE owned and operated eight former UK-state owned nuclear power plants, which are now run by EDF Energy Nuclear Generation Limited. [1]


British Energy (BE) was first set up and registered in Scotland in 1995 to operate the eight most modern nuclear power plants in the UK. It was publicly owned until it was privatised and floated in 1996. Financial problems from 2002 saw the UK government step in and once again obtain a controlling financial interest in the business from 2005 until 2007. [2]

BE's ex-Chief Executive, Mike Alexander, was an enthusiastic proponent of nuclear energy. Delivering the keynote speech at a gathering of UK's leading energy figures organised by the Energy Industries Club, he declared that the volume of waste produced by nuclear energy is trivial, "equivalent to 24 double-decker buses a year".[3]

American Bill Coley took over as BE's new Chief Executive in March 2005. He was labelled by the press as the "ambassador for Britain's next nuclear age." Coley believes that the only way for Britain to reduce its climate dioxide emissions is nuclear. "I will tell you from the mathematics it is not possible to meet the climate change objectives of the country and sustain the economy without new nuclear facilities". Coley argues that renewables such as wind will only have a "niche" role in the future. "When you take a look at the environmental impact of nuclear generation I think it is far more attractive than many of the other technologies," argued Coley.[4]

On 24 September 2008, it was announced that EDF Energy had agreed a takeover of the company, paying £12.5 billion.[5]

Bill Coley led BE into a $23 billion takeover deal with EDF the following year. [6] On 5 January 2009, EDF acquired an 80 per cent controlling interest in British Energy Group, with Centrica buying the rest.[7]A month later, British Energy delisted from the London Stock Exchange. [8]

Since EDF's takeover, only the Wylfa nuclear power station on Anglesey remains in UK state ownership, managed by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

A "blank cheque" from the government

In March 2006, the National Audit Office released a scathing report into the finances of British Energy. According to the Guardian: "The government's decision to bail out the nuclear power generator British Energy has left the taxpayer facing 'a large and uncertain liability', the National Audit Office has warned".[9] In February 2006, British Energy had also revealed that the liabilities underwritten by the taxpayer had increased by £1 billion to £5.1 billion.[10] The Department of Trade and Industry was also heavily criticised by the NAO for failing to keep a careful eye on the £29.1 million fees charged by city firms in relation to British Energy.[11]

PR and lobbying

In 2003-04 British Energy (BE) retained PPS Group, a specialist PR agency focused on influencing local government particularly in relation to planning issues.

In early 2004 it dropped Hill & Knowlton as its retained PA adviser after 14 years. Later that year in October, British Energy appointed Craig Stevenson, a former UK lobbyist for Monsanto as head of government affairs and then in December enlisted Helen Liddell, the former energy minister, to provide "strategic advice" on a short contract for a fee of roughly £15,000. BE also commissioned the services of Financial Dynamics, a PR firm, for a sum of £1 million.[12]

In 2010 BE was listed as a client by Grayling public affairs. [13]

In 2013 BE were listed as a client by Brevia Consulting.

British Energy is a founding member of the Scottish Parliament Business Exchange and helped to fund the Science Media Centre. Scottish PR firm BIG Partnership acted as BE's PR agency at one point.

Key personnel

Nuclear management team

  • Dr Andrew Spurr - Managing Director
  • Mark Gorry - Safety & Technical Director, Nuclear Generation 
  • Stuart Crooks - Chief Technical Officer, Nuclear Generation
  • Brian Cowell - Chief Nuclear Officer, Region 1, Nuclear Generation
  • Matt Sykes - Chief Nuclear Officer, Region 2, Nuclear Generation
  • Peter Prozesky - Chief Nuclear Officer, Region 3, Nuclear Generation
  • Rob Guyler - Finance Director, Nuclear Generation
  • David Akers - Human Resources Director, Nuclear Generation

Former Chief Executive was Bill Coley until the takeover by EDF.

British Energy Generation Ltd board

  • Dr Andrew Spurr - Managing Director
  • Mark Gorry - Safety & Technical Director, Nuclear Generation
  • Brian Cowell - Chief Nuclear Officer, Region 1, Nuclear Generation
  • Matt Sykes - Chief Nuclear Officer, Region 2, Nuclear Generation
  • Peter Prozesky - Chief Nuclear Officer, Region 3, Nuclear Generation
  • Stuart Crooks - Chief Technical Officer, Nuclear Generation
  • Thomas Kusterer - Chief Financial Officer

Corporate memberships


British Energy was a donor to the Science Media Centre in 2002, 2003 and 2007 according to the SMC.[14]


Related Articles


  1. Since July 2011.
  2. Press Release - The sale of the Government’s interest in British Energy, National Audit Office, 22 January 2010, accessed 26 August 2012
  3. Jonathan Leake, 'The nuclear charm offensive', New Statesman, 23 May, 2005.
  4. S. Fleming (2005) "Southern Gent Who Wants to Reignite Energy Talks", The Daily Mail, 9 February, p79
  5. 'EDF agrees to buy British Energy' BBC website, 24 September, 2008.
  6. World Nuclear News, Bill Coley steps down during integration, 30 July 2009, acc 22 June 2012
  7. EDF, Centrica spend $300 million on new UK reactor program, Platts 25th October 2010, accessed August 2012.
  8. 3 February 2009
  9. Terry Macalister, "Ministers 'Wrote Blank Cheque' to Bail out Nuclear Power Group" The Guardian, 17 March, 2006.
  10. National Audit Office, "The Department of Trade and Industry: The Restructuring of British Energy" Press Release, 17 March, 2006.
  11. Christopher Hope, Watchdog Attacks £29.1m Spending, Daily Telegraph, 17 March, 2006.
  12. Jonathan Leake and Dan Box, When PR goes nuclear, New Statesman, 27 May, 2005.
  13. PRCA Public Affairs Register – 1 March 2010 to 31 May 2010
  14. Data from Internet Archive holdings of the Science Media Centre website, 2002-2013.