EU environmental laws pose risk to British energy security

Britain could run out of energy generating capacity in the winter of 2015-16 as a result of EU environmental laws and coal plant closures, according to Ofgem.

Currently, the UK has 14% spare capacity but Ofgem estimates that this could fall to 4% by 2015/2016. 

In its first annual report, the regulator says, that there will only be modest demand increases in energy in the future due to improvements in energy efficiency technology.

However, it claims this will largely be outweighed by a reduction in electricity supplies from coal and oil plants over the period, primarily driven by closures required by European environmental legislation leading to the 10% drop.

Renewable Energy Association head of policy Paul Thompson told edie:

“We would see this as strengthening the case for renewables, as it’s a reminder that the government doesn’t have much time left to deal with this.

“There are a lot of policies being worked on, but still too many uncertainties in many areas for developers to go ahead and build. In particular, government is spending a lot of time worrying about encouraging ‘too much’ renewable generation, even if it’s at the cheaper end of the scale – but there are very good reasons for worrying about not having enough generation.

“No one really knows how much is a safe electricity margin for the UK because this isn’t an experiment we can run in a lab. It might all be fine however a 4% margin is obviously a lot tighter than 14%. By the time we know the answer it will be too late to do anything about it.”

Commenting on the report, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Edward Davey said: “Security of electricity supply is of critical importance to the health of the economy and the smooth functioning of our daily lives.

“That is why the Government is reforming the electricity market to deliver secure, clean and affordable electricity.”

Conor McGlone

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