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 701.

    Did no one see this coming,mass immigration,mass housebuilding schemes,incompetent governments past and present greedy shareholders..this is the tip of the iceberg that is floating towards Not Great Britain...Ever spiralling national debt,crazy foreign policy decisions..There will also be food shortages and water shortages..I am afraid, we are all going to hell in a hand cart.No one cares.

  • rate this

    Comment number 700.

    "Sidney Monroe
    Zero emissions in Britain = zero affect on CO2 in the atmosphere. Is it worth worrying about?"

    So, how much are you prepared to pay for a barrel of oil? $200, $500? At what price of oil does the economics of renewables and nuclear make them viable? If everyone keeps consuming as if fossil fuels were infinite when will that price be reached? What level might the sea be then?

  • rate this

    Comment number 699.

    Ready, Steady ...All getting set now to charge an increase to consumers and so justify those costs to fund required infrastructure and upgrades, whilst still making massive profits and taking government subsidies.
    Most industries pay for their own infrastructure and service upgrades - why should this industry be exempt?

    Something is clearly not right

  • rate this

    Comment number 698.

    I read authoritive reports warning of this more than ten years ago, so like all the other maturing risk strands the issue was not unknown. For those who say we can have unlimited supplies from existing renewables I'd say go and read the figures again.Without a major technological leap we face shortages unless the pop as whole stop treating energy as something they have the right to squander.

  • rate this

    Comment number 697.

    We need a cross party long term "special working group" which identifies resilience issues and which brings forward an action plan to address them.

    Energy/oil/food/water/health/social benefits /raw materials are now critical issues.

    Government's are meant to ensure the basic survival needs of the citizens are met but short term politics prevent that. Its time to rise above politics

  • rate this

    Comment number 696.

    Until we get our population under control we will never have enough power. The only way is to go nuclear, which for some people is totally unacceptable. Some dreadful people even want to reopen the mines which is a dreadful, dangerous job and will cause bad health to the men who work in them. Yes we are an island with plenty of shore line, but wind or wave technology it still won't enough.

  • rate this

    Comment number 695.

    Nuclear would just be the easiest and perhaps quickest fix.
    But what's going to happen with all the nuclear waste?
    One reason why the Germans pulled out of it...

    Before anyone goes for nuclear one needs to answer this question.

    It'll be a mix of biomass, wind, solar, tidal etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 694.

    Privatisation of essential services can't work. Companies just want profit. Governments point at companies instead of doing anything.

    People must stop buying all the electronic junk that needs continual charging up. Spend money on energy-saving improvements.

    Don't look to renewables only. Relative costs of installation and maintenance are high. Only big power plants can be cost effective.

  • rate this

    Comment number 693.

    #679. thebluetick

    I admit to mis reading your comment. I didn't see your ! !

    Of course clouds will obscure sun light. UV or not.

    Some sun light will get through of course. Up to a point.

    The pdf url I posted was fairly dry. To make a point about scientific rigour.

  • rate this

    Comment number 692.


    We will lose the energy for 2 million homes from this one closure alone, and the same company are shutting several other plants as well. This is EU regulation gone mad and the UK government should tell them to stuff it and keep ALL these plants open!

  • rate this

    Comment number 691.

    Another good reason to get out of Europe and re-open our coal mines!

  • rate this

    Comment number 690.

    Wind turbines are not the answer, nuclear is only option medium term.

    Turbines provide intermittent energy at a fraction of their rated power, prone to failure, very high maintenance costs (Scroby Sand windfarm spent millions replacing a section of underwater cable) plus regular gearbox failures.

    In 2015 we will loose base load power plant capable of providing a constant source of electricity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 689.

    What happened to all the promises on renewables?
    PV would solve a lot of problems; just look at Germany - they have abandoned nuclear and are ok!!
    In fact, they are leading the way while we ponder how to build more nuclear and control our supplies for the next generation.
    Hopeless governments here....

  • rate this

    Comment number 688.

    no electric, no cars,no nothing ,brilliant back to the hunter gathering days.

  • rate this

    Comment number 687.

    672.Trout Mask Replica

    (what it the point of emissions reduction)

    'Someone (UK/EU) has to move first'

    Interesting view Mr Trout - but it doesn't work in practice. For example, most countries of the world stopped abusing women years ago. Those that still do are in a minority - but they don't feel guilty about it- in fact they are so proud they think everyone in the world should do it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 686.

    When Romney talked about a problem with a difficult solution he said ' we will kick it down the line '

    Well British politicians of all sides have kicked this issue down the line , there has to consensus and get moving quickly , no need for party politics make it a free vote

  • rate this

    Comment number 685.

    To those saying "What's the point in reducing emissions, China will undo it?" - you do realise someone has to develop the technology, and eventually China will mimic our actions? China's currently going through a period similar to the industrial revolution, building quick & dirty, but soon they'll have a good infrastructure in place and will begin to switch to cleaner systems that we've developed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 684.

    The UK has one of the highest tidal ranges in the world, almost constant wind, a massive surface area of roofs uncluttered by solar panels, valleys full of coal in wales and utility bills appear to have doubles in the past few years and still going up. Yet the UK may run out of power.....it can only be bad management...

  • rate this

    Comment number 683.

    1. Build nuclear power stations.
    2. see 1.

  • rate this

    Comment number 682.

    @577 - 'The Parliamentary term is too short to take these sort of long term strategic decisions about infrastructure.'

    Correct. Which is why the previous government formed the 'Infrastructure Planning Commission'. To take the politics out of the process and streamline the planning system.

    The current lot? Have scrapped it in the interests of 'The Big Society'. A backward step.


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