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Closure of UK coal and nuclear plants to create electricity supply gap of up to 55% by 2025 according to report

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% electricity supply gap, according to a new report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

The Engineering the UK Electricity Gap report says plans to fill the gap by building Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) plants are unrealistic, as the UK would need to build approximately 30 new CCGT plants in less than 10 years. According to the report, the UK has built just four CCGTs in the last 10 years. Additionally, in 2005 twenty nuclear sites were listed for decommissioning,  which the Institution of Mechanical Engineers states has left a significant gap to be filled. According to their report, the country has neither the resources nor enough people with the right skills to build this number of power stations in time.

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.

Dr Jenifer Baxter, Head of Energy and Environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, and Lead Author of the report says: “The UK is facing an electricity supply crisis. As the UK population rises and with the greater use of electricity in transport and heating it looks almost certain that electricity demand is going to rise. However with little or no focus on reducing electricity demand, the retirement of the majority of the country’s ageing nuclear fleet, recent proposals to phase out coal-fired power by 2025 and the cut in renewable energy subsidies, the UK is on course to produce even less electricity than it does at the moment."

She continues, “We cannot rely on CCGTs alone to plug this gap, as we have neither the time, resources nor enough people with the right skills to build sufficient power plants. 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."

Baxter believes the Government needs to take urgent action to create a clear plan of action with timeframes and milestones for new electricity infrastructure to be built. “We need to ensure we have the right skills and knowledge in place to enable this key infrastructure to be built. The UK Infrastructure Commission must also take urgent action to prioritise greater energy efficiency by industry and clarify financial incentives for research and development of renewables, energy storage and combined heat and power.”

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Energy efficiency  •  Energy infrastructure