Sunday, August 09, 2009


Britain's Looming Electricity Gap

Sometimes we should worry about longer term things than mere political positioning. The Economist(8/8/09) directsour attention to the prospect of selective black-outs in a few years time unless we can prevent the energy gap growing. Currently we consume 59 gigawatts as a nation with 45% produced by North Sea Gas; 35% from coal; 15% from nuclear power and the rest from renewables and other sources. By 2115 it is reckoned we'll need 64GW and it is by no means clear we can cover the difference.

Coal is the dirtiest type of fuel and denies climate change policies. North Sea oil peaked in 2000 and is faling away rapidly. Nuclear energy seems to be an alternative but has its own band of resolute environmental critics and severe financial constraints too. To make matters even worse, some 20GW of capacity will disappear by 2015 meaning that too wil need to be replaced. EDF, the nuclear power station, talks up its product by predicting a gap of 32GW, not a mere 5, so the possibility of electricity having to be rationed-as in a 3rd world country- cannot be ruled out.

In 2008 two power stations failed at the same time and there were black-outs across the country. At the very least prices are likely to shoot ever upwards, unless some answer can be found. The irony is wave and wind power are amazingly plentiful in this windswept island but the technology to harness it has proved elusive. Our future uninterupted supplies might very well depend on a breakthrough being made.

Yes but we have lots of coal, plus it gives employment, two mines in my area have been pin pointed that could now reopen, and a site for a power station has been earmarked.

Labour even said it would build up a community, but of course in my area the coal miners have gone, now we have young people who rather work in Tesco, so it looks like more polish people will be living here
It is hard to see any form of renewable generation being scaled up to meet demands by 2015 - the time when the main coal generators should be shut down if we accept the EU ruling - which w emay have to reject. Regardless of this the non gas generating plant is time expired - built from 1965 to 1975 - and should have been replaced years ago but of course the dash for gas stopped that. This has sucked the north sea dry so imported gas will be needed for electricity. The answer is I'm afraid new coal fired and nuclear stations until such time as we can get secure and adequate supplies from the tides.

There is a factor which I can't recall seeing anywhere - if climate change means the UK and Europe will get much warmer then domestic air conditioning will spread like wild fire and this will bost demand significantly. Many of the problems with electricity supply in California in the 1990s and 2000s stem from the parallel sources of growing demand through airconditioning and a failure to build new power stations - hence the brown outs.
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