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Economic Difficulties Helping the UK Phase Out Fossil Fuels

It is not often that good things result from economic slowdown and recession, but the UK government could be forgiven for quietly praising the recent economic difficulties as, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, they mean that the UK could retire old coal, oil, and nuclear power plants without risking blackouts between 2015 and 2020.

The recession and European debt crisis have caused electricity consumption to fall 9% from its 2005 peak. This, along with the increased renewable energy capacity and additional gas power plants, should provide the majority of the UK electricity demands up until 2030.

Government officials had expressed fears that with the proposed plans to close 12GW worth of coal and oil power plants by 2016, along with a further 7GW of nuclear plants before 2020, Great Britain would experience energy shortages. However plans are already in motion to develop around 30GW of power by 2016. Most will be from renewable sources such as offshore and onshore wind farms, and biomass plants. These renewable sources will be supported by some large gas-fired power plants that are to be constructed as part of the governments “dash for gas” in which they want to add 15GW between 2010 and 2016. Great Britain will also build some new nuclear plants – but not until after 2020. In fact the nuclear deal with France is not mentioned here because it is not expected to help Great Britain avoid any possible energy shortages before 2020.

Brian Potskowski, Senior Power Analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, says: “The long lead times for building new nuclear plants and uncertainty over how they will be subsidised means that the recent agreement between the UK and France on nuclear cooperation has little impact on whether the lights stay on in the 2015-20 timeframe.”

By. Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com


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