UK facing major electricity supply gap, warns report

The UK could face an electricity supply gap of up to 55% in the next 10 years as older coal and nuclear plants close down, a report has warned.

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) said filling the gap by building Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) plants was unrealistic given the UK would need to build about 30 new CCGT plants in less than 10 years.

The report said there wasn’t enough resources or the people with the right skills to build the nuclear or gas-fired power stations needed.

It added that a greater reliance on interconnectors to import power from Europe and Scandinavia is “likely to lead to higher electricity costs and less energy security”.

Rising electricity demand

Jenifer Baxter, Head of Energy and Environment at IMechE and Lead Author of the report said: “The UK is facing an electricity supply crisis. As the UK population rises and with the greater use of electricity use in transport and heating it looks almost certain that electricity demand is going to rise.

“However with little or no focus on reducing electricity demand, the retirement of the majority of the country’s ageing nuclear fleet, recent proposals to phase out coal-fired power by 2025 and the cut in renewable energy subsidies, the UK is on course to produce even less electricity than it does at the moment.

“Currently there are insufficient incentives for companies to invest in any sort of electricity infrastructure or innovation and worryingly even the government’s own energy calculator does not allow for the scenarios that new energy policy points towards. Under current policy, it is almost impossible for UK electricity demand to be met by 2025.”

Urgent action needed

She said government needs to take urgent action to work with industry to create a clear pathway with milestones for new electricity infrastructure to be built, including fossil fuel plants, nuclear power, energy storage and combined heat and power.

A Department of Energy and Climate Change spokesman said: "We are the first country to propose an end date to using unabated coal and we will do so in a way that maintains energy security, which comes first.

"New gas power stations are being built and we are investing in cleaner energy, such as nuclear and shale gas, to ensure hardworking families and businesses have secure, affordable energy supplies they can rely on now and in the future."

> Read the report here

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