The UK Government’s policy to close all coal-fired power stations by 2025, combined with the retirement of the majority of the UK’s ageing nuclear fleet and growing electricity demand will leave the UK facing a 40-55% electricity supply gap, according to a new report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
It has released Engineering the UK Electricity Gap, a report which says plans to plug the gap by building Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) plants are unrealistic, as the UK would need to build about 30 new CCGT plants in less than ten years. The UK has built just four CCGTs in the last ten years, closed one and eight other power stations. In addition, in 2005 twenty nuclear sites were listed for decommissioning, leaving a significant gap to be filled. According to the report, the country has neither the resources nor enough people with the right skills to build this many power stations in time. It is already too late for any other nuclear reactors to be planned and built by the coal ‘shut-off’ target of 2025, other than Hinkley Point C.
Dr Jenifer Baxter, Head of Energy and Environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, 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.
“We cannot rely on CCGTs alone to plug this gap, as we have neither the time, resources nor enough people with the right skills to build sufficient power plants. Electricity imports will put the UK’s electricity supply at the mercy of the markets, weather and politics of other countries, making electricity less secure and less affordable.
“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.
“Government needs to take urgent action to work with industry to create a clear pathway with timeframes and milestones for new electricity infrastructure to be built including fossil fuel plants, nuclear power, energy storage and combined heat and power. With CCS now out of the picture, new low carbon innovations must be supported over the course of the next 10 years.
“We need to ensure we have the right skills and knowledge in place to enable this key infrastructure to be built. The UK National Infrastructure Commission must also take urgent action to prioritise greater energy efficiency by industry and clarify financial incentives for research and development of renewables, energy storage and combined heat and power.”
The UK lacks clear plan for future energy capacity, according to think tank The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR). It says the warning from the Institute of Mechanical Engineers is overblown but that theGovernment needs to create a clearer plan for incentivising the level of capacity that is needed.
Byron Orme, IPPR Research Fellow for Climate Change, said:
“The warning from the Institute of Mechanical Engineers that the UK faces a potential supply gap of 55% is overblown but it is true that there are major challenges ahead for replacing our creaking energy infrastructure.
“The Government needs a clearer plan for incentivising the sort of clean generating capacity that the country needs but also the digital technology that will maximise the efficiency of the system and keep costs low for households and businesses. They should start by reforming the ‘Capacity Market’ to help achieve this.”