The UK electricity grid will be unable to keep up with demand, leading to power cuts within the next decade, according to the UK government’s own predictions. Opposition spinners suggested the situation was even worse than stated.
The revelation was slipped out in an on-line annex to the Government’s Low Carbon Transition Plan, launched in July. It is expected to lead to an increase in demand for renewable energy equipment and batteries.
It forecasts a power deficit starting in 2017 of around 3000 megawatt hours per year -the equivalent of the whole of the city of Nottingham area being without electricity for a day.
According to the document the situation will worsen by 2025 with the shortfall hitting 7000 megawatt hours per year, still only equivalent to an hour-long power cut for half of Britain.
Greg Clark, the shadow climate and energy change secretary, said that the scale of the blackouts could in fact be three times worse than the Government predictions. He arguerd that some of the modelling used was “optimistic” as it assumes little or no change in electricity demand up until to 2020.
It also assumes a rapid increase in wind farm capacity. In addition there is the assumption that existing nuclear power stations will be granted extensions to their “lifetimes”.
“Britain faces blackouts because the Government has put its head in the sand about Britain’s energy policy for a decade. Over the next 10 years we need to replace one third of our generating capacity but Labour has left it perilously late, and has been forced to admit they expect power cuts for the first time since the 1970s,” said Mr Clark.
He described the issue as one of “national security”, adding that the next government must accelerate the deployment of a new generating capacity, ensure there is enough capacity to provide a robust margin of safety.
Government predictions are based on a rapid increase in generating capacity of wind farms and extending the life of extending the life of existing nuclear power stations.
Although the predicted energy deficit is relatively small, the problem is particularly intractable because of the combined effects drive to reduce carbon emissions and long lead times in the energy sector.
The shortfall is in part the result of the scheduled closure by 2015 of nine oil and coal-fired power plants in response a European Union directive designed to cut pollution. In addition, four existing nuclear power plants are set to be shut, adding to the need for new sources of energy.
The Government has given the go-ahead for a new generation of nuclear power stations, but as yet none have been put forward by the private sector for approval. And even if plans are approved for new nuclear power stations they will inevitably face strong public resistance in the form of public consultations and inquiries.
Critics say The UK government’s ability to control energy production and energy security has been further compromised by market deregulation which has seen decisions about energy strategy devolved to companies controlled by French, German and other continental managers.
“It beggars belief that almost the whole of our generating capacity is owned by foreign countries,” said Prof Ian Fells, emeritus professor of Energy Conversion at Newcastle University. ENDS