Britain faces power cuts threat

The United Kingdom will experience prolonged power cuts in about five years unless urgent action is taken now, says a new report. A third generation capacity was due to be decommissioned by 2020, but is not being replaced fast enough. Since the new reactors will not be ready in time, many question continued spending on renewable energy, says BBC News.

Researchers identified a number of factors that would combine to create the energy gap, including:

  • The main impact would be the loss of 23 gigawatts (GW) of electricity generation capacity between now and 2020.

  • The UK's ageing nuclear reactors, which currently provide about a fifth of the nation's electricity, are set to be decommissioned over the coming years.

  • Current projections show that by 2023, the United Kingdom will have only one nuclear reactor in operation.

  • A European Union directive that requires the most polluting coal- and oil-fired power station to close would result in the likely loss of a further 12GW generation capacity.

    Moreover, researchers predict that it will be another decade before any new reactors come online, which will not be soon enough to help bridge the looming energy gap. They also question whether government subsidies for renewable energy are the best way to spend public money. Government figures show that subsidies for renewable last year amount to one billion pounds; by 2020, that figure will be between 20 and 30 billion pounds.

    However, critics say the report overstates the risks and understates what the government is already during to secure future supplies and increase energy independence – such as tenfold increase in renewable and backing clean coal technology.

    Nevertheless, both camps agree that securing future energy supplies for the United Kingdom is a matter of national security and the country should not rule out any radical options, says BBC.

    Source: Mark Kinver, Britain 'faces power cuts threat', BBC News, September 17, 2008; based upon: A Pragmatic Energy Policy for the UK, Fells Associates, August 2008.

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    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 30 September 2008
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