The UK could be facing an energy crisis as a result of a growing shortfall between UK electricity generation and demand as ageing power stations close and new, cleaner stations are yet to be built, according to a new report, The Energy Crunch, published today by the law firm Bircham Dyson Bell LLP.
The report provides comprehensive statistics on the large number of power stations that are now closing and the substantial amount of capacity that will be lost as a result. Alongside this is research on how many power stations have been granted consent to be built, what capacity they will add to the grid and whether they are progressing to construction.
Combined, the twin pressures of power station closures and fewer new stations being built means that there will be 18,615MW less capacity available to the grid by 2030. To put the figures into context, 1,000MW produced by a coal fired power station is enough to power one million homes. The report highlights the real prospect of an “energy crunch”, where demand outstrips supply.
The report’s research is supported by two polls – the first of 100 businesses and the second of 1,000 members of the general public – to gauge awareness of a potential energy crunch, energy use habits and how energy use might change. The surveys reveal that businesses are much more aware and prepared for possible energy shortages than consumers: 66% already have contingency plans in place to respond to instances of blackouts. In contrast, only 13% of the general public are aware of a potential shortage of electricity supply.
Key findings of The Energy Crunch research include:
The surveys of businesses and the general public reveal:
Commenting on the findings, Angus Walker, partner and head of the government and infrastructure team at Bircham Dyson Bell, said: “We have observed increasing concern in recent years that as old electricity generation comes offline, new power generators are not being built at a rate that is keeping pace. Our research establishes the hard facts of how serious the situation is, finding that on current projections this is likely to result in a shortfall between supply and demand – in summary an energy crunch.”
Walker said that despite this prospect, there is still time for action. “With the implementation of the Planning Act 2008 the government introduced an extremely efficient planning regime which enables applications for new power stations to progress quickly. It must now replicate that in its policies to support investment in the energy sector to enable the new era of energy generation to progress.”
Brian Galloway, director of energy policy at Scottish Power commented: “Scottish Power does not envisage a scenario in which the lights actually go out, however National Grid will need to use all of the tools and options at its disposal to ensure that doesn’t happen. It is a far from ideal situation. Managing next winter (2016-2017) could be very challenging - Longannet and over half of Eggborough are scheduled to close, which could mean we lose 4% of current firm MW GB capacity. A cold winter would exacerbate the situation.”