Power shortage risks by 2015, Ofgem warns

The coal fuelled Ferrybridge power station The regulator said coal-fired power stations would be closing sooner than expected

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Britain risks running out of energy generating capacity in the winter of 2015-16, according to the energy regulator Ofgem.

Its report predicted that the amount of spare capacity could fall from 14% now to only 4% in three years.

Ofgem said this would leave Britain relying more on imported gas, which would make price rises more likely.

The government said that its forthcoming Energy Bill would ensure that there was secure supply.

Ofgem blames the risk on coal-fired power stations being closed sooner than expected and EU environmental legislation.

The warnings come in Ofgem's first annual Electricity Capacity Assessment.

It comes three years after Ofgem's Project Discovery report, which warned that electricity shortages could lead to steep rises in energy bills.

It is now saying the highest risk of shortages would be sooner than expected because coal-fired power stations would be closing sooner than it had predicted in 2009.

'Unprecedented challenges'

The regulator said more investment was needed in building fresh generating capacity.

Start Quote

Consumers need protection from price spikes as well as power cuts”

End Quote Audrey Gallacher Consumer Focus

"The unprecedented challenges in facing Britain's energy industry… to attract the investment to deliver secure, sustainable and affordable energy supplies for consumers, still remain," said Ofgem chief executive Alistair Buchanan.

"Ofgem is working with government on its plans to reform the electricity market to tackle these issues."

Energy Secretary Ed Davey said the government would respond to the report before the end of the year.

"Security of electricity supply is of critical importance to the health of the economy and the smooth functioning of our daily lives," he said.

"That is why the government is reforming the electricity market to deliver secure, clean and affordable electricity."

Ofgem's Ian Marlee: "There is an increased risk of electricity shortages"

Energy UK, which represents the energy industry, said Ofgem was right to highlight the challenges it faces in the coming years.

"We must secure over £150bn of investment in the UK to replace aging power stations and infrastructure, keep the lights on and meet our carbon targets," said its chief executive Angela Knight.

"All while making sure that energy bills are affordable for the millions of homes and businesses that rely on the power supplied by our members."

Price worries

The trade union Prospect, whose members include 21,000 professionals working in nuclear decommissioning and energy supply, called for government action to avert power shortages.

"This report highlights how imperative it is for the government to act now and introduce electricity market reform that ensures the programme of new nuclear build and other vital energy infrastructure projects, such as carbon capture and storage, are attractive enough to secure the long-term investment they require," said Prospect general secretary designate Mike Clancy.

Audrey Gallacher, director of energy at Consumer Focus expressed concern about the dangers of rising prices.

"While there is enough generation capacity to mean that widespread power-cuts are still unlikely, narrower margins mean the risks of outages are higher and scarcity of energy could also feed into possible price rises in future," he said.

"Consumers need protection from price spikes as well as power cuts."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 1001.

    981. Steve
    We could sell the spare power to other countries and use some of the profits to find more efficient ways to process the waste. It's quite possible we might even find a way to neutralise it given enough research. Nobody is going to wittingly research the solution for a problem that doesn't yet exist.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1000.

    This isn't really a problem we will probably be ruled by China by then making all their consumer products on the cheap

  • rate this

    Comment number 999.

    Isn't fairy breath and baby laughter providing enough energy then?

    Perhaps we should just do the obvious and build a couple of reactors.

  • rate this

    Comment number 998.

    This is the way forward folks http://nrgstyle.com/ When we take responsibility for our own energy needs we can work miracles and cut out the government and the large energy corps.

  • rate this

    Comment number 997.

    #911..I wasn't suggesting that there wasn't a problem,I tend to lean towards your prognosis,but you can't trust these people to provide the correct information.
    One of my solutions would be to ban freezers,I doubt if there's many people around the country who don't have a freezer,just keeping food frozen 24 hours a day all year round,a lot of which probably gets chucked away anyway.

  • rate this

    Comment number 996.

    By 2016 all houses HAVE to be carbon neutral so we will see more solar as well as heat pumps. Solar is not a complete answer a coal p station puts over 8,000t of coal an hour on at peak times 4-7pm how many panels/wind farms do you recon we need just to balance the one PS?
    Nuclear is not the only answer
    Gas is the future just like now its a cheap fuel and we have over 250yrs worth of it left.

  • rate this

    Comment number 995.

    Look out for more price hikes.

    If you are on the reliable energy tariff you will get power all the time.

    If you are on the cheap tariff you will chance your luck.

    Private enterprise should never be allowed to control essential utilities.

  • rate this

    Comment number 994.

    As the brightest thing in the House of Commons is the lightbulbs, it'd be a terrible shame if they went out!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 993.

    Why the panic/ with 14% exess = 14% wastle.. if we are left with just 4% thats a hell of a lot ... we are linked to europe by cable,, then to other nations by cable we could buy and sell by these links. no excess = no wastle.. 10% of the 14% could go to profit so no need to put the price up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 992.

    964. a basic grasp of logic, physics and economics. Aside from that, previously working as an engineer in the energy sector. With no easily installed storage medium, current renewables absolutely CANNOT provide baseload power as they rely on an unpredictable climate. Other options are 20-30yrs off and have debatable benefits. Now, who's the choob and talking about things they don't understand?

  • rate this

    Comment number 991.

    Issues that need to be resolved ~ this is global not just UK
    Misuse of housing stock (eg 4bed houses with single or couple run excess light/heat ie = waste)
    Consumerism and gadgets that do nothing; eg 4 phones pp all need power = waste
    Emissions legislation impact on baseload management
    Grid is ageing not fit for future purpose of managing variable power inputs
    Population blind to the issue

  • rate this

    Comment number 990.

    We need more nuclear- and coal-powered energy ideas in the UK like we need 'Bird-Strike Central' in the Thames Estuary!

  • rate this

    Comment number 989.

    930 And the U232 byproducts the process creates? No fission based process is clean nor waste free, it has promise and in theory better , but it produces waste that cannot simply be dumped down the landfill.

  • rate this

    Comment number 988.

    Allehluyah. The lights will all go out in 2015 ! Victory to the NIMBYS ! Wouldn't want those nasty power stations spoiling your view eh ?

    When the lights went out - aaaaaalll over the world !

  • rate this

    Comment number 987.

    Short termism...strikes again..

  • rate this

    Comment number 986.

    How can people who are responsible for running things in this country always seem to be incompetent, ill prepared and have no strategic abilities?

    Honestly, most of those in positions of power in this country, the government included, couldn't run a small sweetshop between them.

    A country run by numpties. The new banana republic of Europe.

  • rate this

    Comment number 985.

    Happy traveller - regarding Scottish energy you could not be more wrong. Hydro-electric is Huge North of the border. It will be Scotland's chief export when they are Independent

  • rate this

    Comment number 984.

    All the anti nuclear lobby will now be happy, because in (3 years time, we can all sit into dark and twiddle ou thums

  • rate this

    Comment number 983.

    This has been a problem well forecast by the industry but no government has wanted to acknowledge. Once we signed up to the large carbon plant directive (another EU weeze) it was clear that our old plants would be closing long before any new ones came on line. It will require a radical step change to avoid the blackouts so buy your own generator for home before the price goes up!

  • rate this

    Comment number 982.

    Its not a surprise as we are overpopulated,no restrictions on family size plus all are welcomed here from any country whose bills are paid by the tax payer. We have over a million empty houses and councils/government want to build more which will use up more energy in vast quantities.Eco homes have problems its emerged. More housing means more floods less bees to polinate crops for food.


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