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.
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
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.
Links to this post: