Mind the gap.
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 per cent electricity supply gap, according to a new report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Engineering the UK Electricity Gap says plans to plug the shortfall 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 past 10 years, closed one and eight other power stations. In addition, in 2005, 20 nuclear sites were listed for decommissioning, leaving a significant gap to be filled. 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.
"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," said Dr Jenifer Baxter, head of energy and environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, and lead author of the report.
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.
Baxter continued: "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."
* The UK Infrastructure Commission should assess the necessary incentives for industry and the public to reduce the demand on the electricity system through engineering efficiencies into processes and equipment, awareness raising and advocacy.
* The UK Infrastructure Commission must urgently implement the changes necessary across the industry and supply chain to deliver security of electricity supply with no coal-fired generation. These include: investment in research and development activities for renewables, energy storage, combined heat and power and innovation in power station design and build.
* Collaboratively, the UK Government and its delivery bodies, along with industry should 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 build (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.