Britain facing “energy gap”

Pages 20-21 of this report, the journal of the parliamentary and scientific committee, describe how:

  • “It is clear that we are facing an energy gap”
  • “8GW of coal-fired plant must come offline by the end of 2015.” These power stations are [already] running down their 20,000 remaining hours at a rate which means they could start to come offline as early as 2013. This in turn means that they are now making decisions about whether to replace parts and undertaking selective maintenance.
  • Without energy security we won’t have affordable energy or meet our climate change objectives.
  • Energy security is therefore a priority.
  • Under the current market structure the UK is moving towards 60-70% of its electricity being generated from gas.
  • Around 80% of this gas will need to be imported.
  • Most countries which rely on imported gas have invested in gas storage facilities to prevent any shock ruptures to supply or price spikes.
  • But whereas France and Germany have around 100 days’ worth of storage capacity, the UK has just 14.
  • There is scope for extending the life of some of our nonMagnox nuclear plants but this should be seen as a bonus rather than relied upon to
    provide our energy security.
  • On renewables, it is clear that the targets set for 2020 are extremely ambitious, all the more so because of the Government’s lack of a roadmap.

The government is relying on the market to solve this problem, but as the next paper says (pages 22-23):

  • The technology for carbon capture and storage exists (for small scale application) today.
  • However, industry will not move to scale-up that technology until there is a business case.
  • “Too much risk will deter investment.”
  • In which case, either industry will delay investment until the crisis is upon us (in which case the price goes higher and the delay until implementation is longer).
  • Or industry will delay investment until government decides to take the risk on behalf of industry. (And government does not have a very good recent good track record of risk-taking.

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