Is The Need For Energy Infrastructure More Or Less Urgent?

Today's entry looks at whether the need for energy infrastructure is getting more or less urgent than a year ago.

In January last year, a blog entry looked at the reasons for the predicted shortfall in electricity supply by 2017. Has the situation got better or worse since then? Read on to find out.

Achieving targets

A useful real-time website that shows current sources of electricity (click 'Hide All' in the left column and then 'Generation by Fuel Type (table)') today has our electricity coming from:

coal (42.9%), gas (26.6%), nuclear (22.6%), wind (3%), pumped storage (0.8%) (not really new generation - it is the national equivalent of 'economy seven' where water is pumped up a hill at night and released back down again during the day), hydroelectric (0.6%) and other countries (3.5%). We are therefore still a long way off the 30% renewable sources target that the government has set, so that it can achieve the EU target of 15% of all energy (not just electricity) coming from renewable sources by 2020.

Over a year, the picture is a little better - according to the latest energy statistics, in 2011 renewables accounted for 9.5% of overall electricity generation, although generation overall fell by 4.2%.

Old generation closing

It is not just the renewable energy target that demands new generation, but the closure of old plants due to age or excess emissions.

Back in January 2011 Oldbury nuclear power station was going to close that year, and Kingsnorth, Tilbury, Wylfa (nuclear) and Cockenzie this year. In fact Oldbury closed in February this year, Kingsnorth and Cockenzie are going to close next March, one reactor at Wylfa will close next month but the other will keep going until 2014, and Tilbury will run on until 2015 because it has converted to biomass. The closure rate is thus slightly better than predicted a year ago.

New generation starting

What about the rate of new generation? In 2010, according to the Digest of UK Energy Statistics around 5.5GW of new electricity generation capacity came on stream. In 2011, DECC consented almost exactly 10GW of new generation, and the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) consented 65MW as its one and only decision. Consents don't always lead to operation, but you can't have the latter without the former.

Current applications

In terms of applications, DECC is working its way through 15 remaining pre-Planning Act but over 50MW applications. The Planning Inspectorate is dealing with six...

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