According to the Institute of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) in a recent analysis the UK may face a generation or supply ‘gap’ of up to 55% by 2025. This would leave our electricity supply dependant on the import markets via interconnectors, which will be less secure and more expensive.
As the current crop of civil nuclear power generators are closed down and the government has said that coal fired generation is to be phased out over the next decade, the assumption has been that combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) plants could replace the lost capacity at the scale needed. However, the Institute say’s that the UK does not have the resource to build the thirty or so CCGT plants needed within the next decade, with only four being built in the last ten years. They also say that given the time it takes to plan, gain safety and operational consents, and build new nuclear capacity, other than the new Hinkley C project it is too late for new nuclear to close the gap over the decade.
Dr Jenifer Baxter, Head of Energy and Environment at IMechE, and Lead Author of the report has said: “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.”
There are also increasing concerns over the UK’s electricity supply next winter with the news that Fiddlers Ferry power station owner, SSE, is now planning to close most of its generating units in April. This will reduce the UK’s capacity by 1.5GW, at a penalty cost of £33m for pulling out of a capacity market contract to keep the plant running to 2018/19. The company put the decision down to ongoing “unsustainable losses” with the contract and which could “undermine SSE’s ability to invest in modern generation plant in the UK.” The station’s remaining unit will stay operational under a contract to provide services to electricity system to winter 2016/17.
On a typical day, the U.K. uses 38.3GigaWatts of electricity, 22 percent of which is met by coal, 27 percent from gas, 23 percent nuclear and 13 percent wind, the institution said in the report. The rest is biomass and power imports.