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 621.

    Why should I trust government policy on an issue like cannabis when they can't even be trusted to keep the power on? Pathetic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 620.

    Was I being sceptical to believe that most road vehicles would NOT be electrical powered within twenty years?

    If under normal usage, lights etc. are going off and on on and off, due to power shortages, we surely will not all be able to recharge our vehicles.

  • rate this

    Comment number 619.


    The irony of your flippant comment is that on the continent this is the way they're thinking. You have a cross nation electrical grid, doesn't matter if it's a bit cloudy in Germany, there'll be some sun/wind in spain.

    It would massively even out the variations..

  • rate this

    Comment number 618.

    589 james

    Factories use power they are not a power asset
    and you forgot to mention massed immigration

    588.Sibbwolf No one asked them to come here ACCEPT POLITICIANS who were naive and stupid. Anthony Eden as one prime example.

    Only a fool tries to seperate immigration from infrastructure and resource issues and we have whole load of them on both sides house.

  • rate this

    Comment number 617.


    generating up to 20% of their national capacity.

    There's a BIG difference in 20% of their capacity, and 20% of their generated electricity though. They can only ever achieve that 20% on a superb cloudless summers day. Same with wind, though you need a windy day.

    These renewables are far too inconsistent.

  • rate this

    Comment number 616.

    Third world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 615.

    This year, the proposal for 2 new power stations in Manchester failed to get planning permission. One, next to the ship canal, could not have been on a more “brown field” site.

    Unfortunately in the UK, you can no longer have a sensible debate as dogma seems to trump common sense every time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 614.

    Why not go for Solar Parks as they do in Europe. Germany are using old mines flooded with water to generate electricity, I think we have quite a few of those.

  • rate this

    Comment number 613.

    For energy companies to be making billions in profit every year and then to be told there won't be enough energy for everybody soon highlights the fact there is something wrong with the system.

    The money we pay should be used for develop more efficient renewable energy not line the pockets of the elite.

    greed greed and more greed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 612.

    No need to worry people. By 2015, half the population won't be able to afford their gas and electricity bills and will be disconnected from the mains. That will leave ample energy supplies for those who can afford the escalating prices.

  • rate this

    Comment number 611.


    While there is a need to secure our energy supply in the longer term, the priority of both government and the population has to be to stop using and wasting so much of it.

    Then why are you wasting electricity reading and more strikingly spouting advice you can't even follow yourself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 610.

    This debate shows exactly why we have this problem - we have the pro and anti nuclear brigade; we have the pro and anti renewable brigade and those who believe there will always be power at the flick of a switch.

    It's no different in Government and until the lights go out, I am not hopeful that anyone will appreciate that we need a decent mix of generating capacity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 609.

    Ah, remember the CEGB. We owned it & its statutory remit was to supply us with electricity at the lowest cost consistent with the most security. It had to plan ahead to guarantee sufficient generation to meet future demand. Didn't have to pay compensation or artificial premiums in a rip-off market place, didn't have more lawyers than engineers. It was just a public service.

  • rate this

    Comment number 608.

    @572.Big John the Red
    I’ve attended many seminars ... obstacles:
    1. Full cycle costs including decommissioning.
    [Thorium plant are much cheaper]
    2. Security of supply. The next biggest new resource is in the Middle East! [Thorium is in abundance everywhere]
    3. We have to wait in the queue for the French to build them.
    [No we don't, India, US, China or Russia can help]

  • rate this

    Comment number 607.

    So, there we have it.... The Government has wasted Billions of the building of Wind Turbines that do not work instead of doing their duty to ensure that we do not become short of power. Ideology before common sense. Go Nuclear its not perfect but that one actually works.
    Build the plant underground so it minimises the danger. We can build a tunnel for trains underground why not a poer station

  • rate this

    Comment number 606.

    Ah good old PRIVATISATION.

    Better for everyone especially consumers.

    Could any one write better humerous material or jokes.

    The tories have screwed up once again.

    How do these people and the people who are conned into voting for them sleep at night?

  • rate this

    Comment number 605.


    What I particularly enjoy about that report is it states investment in renewables has seen Germanies energy bills become one of the highest in Europe.

    Wonder who could be higher?

  • rate this

    Comment number 604.

    Didcot Power Station 2000mw closing down due to EU legislation as it's coal fired, it's not worn out as super heated steam hits the turbines so it's as new as the day they first spun, will the EU stop everyone burning coal in their houses now as well??

  • rate this

    Comment number 603.

    Its just shamefulk that the article doesn't even mention renewable energies, as if this were not probably the main viable option in our hands. Nuclear power, with its massive subsidies, radioactive waste disposal and hazards (i.e. Japan) is definitely not an option. Germany's roofs are covered in solar panels with the same or worse weather than us, generating up to 20% of their national capacity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 602.

    This news makes me even more glad that I recently invested in Solar Panels. The income they should generate made installing them very attractive and with the news of sharp price increases and power shortages I'm feeling quite pleased with the investment.


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