Policies & Politics
27 Jan (NucNet): 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 country facing a 40 to 55 percent electricity supply gap, according to a new report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
The ‘Engineering the UK Electricity Gap’ report 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 10 years. The UK has built just four CCGTs in the last 10 years.
In addition, 20 nuclear sites have listed for decommissioning, leaving a significant gap to be filled.
According to the report, the UK 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.
Using data for one day in August 2015, the report says electricity demand in the UK was met by generation based on 22 percent coal, 27 percent gas, 23 percent nuclear and 13 percent wind, with the final parts being made up from biomass and imports from France and the Netherlands.
“The loss of coal by 2025, along with growth in demand and the closure of the majority of our nuclear power stations will therefore be significant, leaving a potential supply gap of 40 percent to 55 percent, depending on wind levels,” the report says.
The report calls on the government and industry to review the capacity in the supply chains to deliver the construction of the “most likely” new power infrastructure.
This includes identifying timeframes and milestones for conventional and unconventional power generation (fossil fuel, nuclear, energy storage, combined heat and power and off-grid options) along with growth in skills and knowledge within the UK to meet the potential increase in demand.
The report also highlights that a greater reliance on interconnectors to import electricity from Europe and Scandinavia is likely to lead to higher electricity costs and less energy security.
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.”
Ms Baxter said 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,” she said.
“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.”
The report is online: http://bit.ly/23qkd2x
Related reports in the NucNet database (available to subscribers):
© NucNet a.s.b.l Brussels, Belgium