The energy and climate secretary, Ed Davey, has said the UK will get around 20 new gas fired power stations over the next 17 years.
The new power plants will see the biggest construction effort in the energy sector for years but there are concerns that the project will harm investment in the renewable industry. It’s also unlikely that the new electricity generation plants will mean lower business electricity prices.
However, Mr Davey said that the new power plants would not be to the detriment of renewable energy investment and neither would it affect the UK’s carbon reduction targets. He said “I strongly support more gas, just as I strongly support more renewable energy. We need a big expansion of renewable energy and of gas if we are to tackle our climate change challenges”.
The new gas strategy is likely to be announced in the autumn. It will mean a huge investment programme and will shape the future of the UK’s energy generation. However, environmental groups are not happy. The political director of Greenpeace, Joss Garman, said “Green-lighting a whole fleet of new fossil fuel power stations would cause a huge jump in emissions and blow this autumn’s once-in-a-generation opportunity to replace dirty power stations with clean ones”.
The Government is planning to add 20GW of gas fired power generation over the next 17 years. It’s important that the UK has an alternative form of energy generation as a backup for renewables. When a new offshore wind farm was opened last week, offshore capacity rose to 2GW, which is more than any other country at the moment. However, we still need a back-up form of energy generation and at the moment that’s either gas or nuclear.
The news comes just after National Grid announced that if the UK reaches its carbon and renewable targets it will no longer be dependent on energy imports. Obviously increasing the number of gas fired power plants will mean more gas imports so the UK will become more dependent on energy imports not less. Energy prices are therefore unlikely to go down but will be as dependent as ever on wholesale gas prices.
It may be that the new gas fired power plants are fitted with carbon capture and storage (CCS) which may help with achieving carbon reduction targets. However, there are currently no large scale CCS plants in operation. It’s therefore unclear whether the UK will be able to reach its carbon and renewable targets and as a result become less dependent on energy imports.