UK in Historic Shift in Energy Supply; Renewables, Efficiency Mean Coal, Oil Plants Can Close

Increasing renewable energy capacity, efficiency gains and natural gas will enable Britain to close its old coal, oil and nuclear power plants on schedule, without risking black-outs between 2015-2020, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Opponents of closing dirty power plants in the US and UK often use fear of blackouts and lack of electrical capacity to keep them open.

In addition, the UK’s "dash for gas", which could see the addition of 15GW of new capacity between 2010-2016 at a cost of GBP 7.5 billion, is likely to be the nation’s last. Renewable energy, nuclear, energy efficiency and retrofits to existing plants should be able to meet all additional needs from 2020 onwards, says Bloomberg New Energy.

The UK is developing comprehensive Electricity Market Reforms to encourage the shift to low carbon and has plans for a carbon price floor, an emissions performance standard, a low-carbon feed-in-tariff and a capacity market. 

The country is planning to close 12 gigawatts (GW) of coal and oil-fired plants by 2016 and 7 GW of nuclear by 2020.

Weak industrial demand and declines in domestic use have caused electricity consumption to fall significantly during the recession – down 9% from its 2005 peak. Bloomberg New Energy doesn’t expect demand to return to peak levels as energy efficiency takes hold.

Meanwhile, 30 GW of new capacity will be added to the grid by 2016 and two-thirds of that will be from renewables – large onshore and offshore wind farms, and biomass plants. They will be complemented by several large thermal projects such as RWE’s 2 GW gas-fired Pembroke plant, due to come online this year.

Beyond 2016, the country will continue to build high levels of wind power, as well as increasing amounts of solar and marine energy.

"The UK is embarking on an historic shift in its electricity supply, and commentators and critics have continually raised the spectre of the lights going out across Britain. Our analysis shows that, barring unforeseen circumstances, it is not going to happen," says Michael Liebreich, CEO of Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

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