The UK faces a higher risk of blackouts over the next five years as old power stations are decommissioned, the Government was warned today.
Britain’s ageing national grid will be under most pressure next winter, causing potential disruption to electricity supplies, a report published by the Royal Academy of Engineering predicted.
The report comes weeks after the big six energy companies warned Labour leader Ed Miliband’s election pledge for 20-month energy price cap increased the risk of energy shortages across the country.
Blackout: The Royal Academy of Engineering said there as an increased likelihood of blackouts in the next five years as older generation power plants were decommissioned
Meanwhile, earlier this week SSE became the first of the energy companies to raise its energy tariff- by 8.2 per cent. And today British Gas announced it was raising energy prices by 9.2 per cent.
The remaining four big energy companies are expected to increase their tariffs in the coming weeks.
The Government-commissioned study found that although the national grid is able to cover projected levels of demand it will be stretched ‘close to its limits’ and events like low wind, cold weather and unplanned plant outages could put the country’s power supply at risk.
Dr John Roberts, chairman of the report’s working group, said: ‘In the next decade, several coal and oil-fired power stations will be forced to close if they do not invest to comply with European regulation on pollution emissions.
‘In addition to this, four nuclear plants are scheduled to close by 2019, further reducing the available capacity.
‘Although the combined closures are not expected to bring the total available electricity capacity below the predicted peak demand, a reduced margin in the power available at any given time would reduce the flexibility of the system and increase the chances that otherwise manageable failures could jeopardise the country’s power supply.
‘The longer a low capacity margin persists, the greater the chance of experiencing a combination of challenging events during that time.’
Dr Roberts said the Government needed to set market conditions to encourage private investment to secure a modern and sustainable service.
The Royal Academy’s report highlights a hiatus in investment, a result mainly of uncertainties over the reform of the electricity market and the current low profitability of gas plants.
‘Modernising and decarbonising the system will come at a cost, with likely rises in the unit price of electricity and difficult decisions will need to be made,’ Dr Roberts added.
‘This will only be achievable with the consent of the public and it is vital that government and industry work together to foster a constructive dialogue with the public about the challenges we face in achieving a low carbon, secure and affordable energy system for the future.’
Earlier this week, the Prime Minister ordered a review into so -called green taxes. Mr Cameron’s official spokesman said: ‘You would expect us, when families’ budgets are under pressure, to look at whether or not more can be done to help them. That’s what the Government will be doing.’
The review is expected to focus on the £1.3billion-a-year Energy Companies Obligation (Eco) scheme, which the energy firms claim will add £100 a year to bills.
But other green taxes, including subsidies for windfarms and the so-called carbon price floor, which is expected to raise £1billion a year for the Government, could also come under the spotlight. Mr Cameron said this week he did not want costly subsidies for windfarms and other renewable energy to last ‘a minute longer than is necessary’.