Azara Blog: Britain facing future shortages in energy supply

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Date published: 2005/11/10

The BBC says:

Britain is facing a shortfall in energy supply in the near future, according to a major report.

Within a decade, the country may be generating only about 80% of the electricity it needs.

A panel of 150 experts says fossil fuels will remain the mainstay of supply, with renewables expanding and nuclear power almost certainly needed.

The panel urges the government to take steps quickly to solve the issue; doing nothing, it says, is not an option.

"Up to the year 2050, fossil fuels will remain the dominant energy source - there really is no alternative," said John Loughhead of the UK Energy Research Centre, who compiled the report following a two-day conference held last month under the auspices of the Geological Society of London.

The conference drew contributions from about 150 delegates representing all sectors of the energy field.

"If the UK is to remain on the path of reducing atmospheric emissions of greenhouse gases, it will need to retain some nuclear capacity," Dr Loughhead told reporters at a news briefing on Wednesday.

"Renewables are going to play a role, but they're going to need support if they're to continue on a downward path of cost."

The immediate issue is the impending closure of most British nuclear power stations and many coal-fired units.

By 2015, all four Magnox nuclear stations still operating will have shut down, as will five of the seven stations running Advanced Gas-Cooled Reactors (AGRs).

Under the European Large Combustion Plant Directive, many of the nation's coal-fired plants will also close in the next decade.

In principle, the gap could be bridged by new power stations burning gas or coal; but this would work against the government's short term targets and long term aspirations on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

"Without the need to reduce emissions, there would not be an energy gap by 2050," said Dr Loughhead.

Meanwhile, demand may continue to rise; and managing that demand, says the report, is a key issue.

Technologies exist to increase efficiencies, but they are not being used to anything like their full potential, it finds - largely because the public is not properly engaged in the energy issue.

This is one area in which it recommends urgent attention from the government.

Another is setting up the right frameworks to encourage investment and research, setting up a long-term stable marketplace which will allow companies to plan for the future.

This is what happens when you have spin doctors instead of technocrats running the country. The current government has been in power for eight years and has done nothing to help secure the UK's long-term energy future.

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