Sometimes a tweet just won’t do. Yesterday I tweeted this:
DECC cnsltn out on gas gen. Um, 25% of UK elec gen lost by 2020. 20 yrs to new nuclear. No coherent RE strat. #DoneDeal #Fracking #3Degrees
…but somehow it doesn’t immediately convey the whole point. So here’s an expanded version:
DECC has today published its call for evidence to “to inform a gas generation strategy to deliver a secure and affordable route to a low carbon economy.”
It’s lovely of them to ask. But consider the backdrop to this consultation:
- Between a quarter and a third of current UK electricity generation capacity will come offline by the end of the decade. (It’s worth reading that sentence again – the implications are massive.)
- New nuclear will not fill the gap. It will take at least 8 years to build each new nuclear power station and the stable of new UK nukes is struggling get out of the gates – that 8 year clock hasn’t even started ticking. In a massive setback to new nuclear, last month RWE and Npower abandoned plans for two new power stations in the wake of the collapse of the German nuclear market.
- Without a radical change in policy, Renewables and energy storage will not grow at a sufficient rate to fill the gap.
So what does that leave us?
Electricity from gas.
A rash of new combined cycle gas turbines will almost certainly be used to keep the lights on. They’re quick to build and reasonably economic to run. And given the UK policy framework at the moment, they’re just about the only game in town, even if they will cause us to miss our legally binding carbon targets.
Where will all this gas come from? Expect a massive push for expanded fracking operations in the UK, with proponents citing the wild “success” of fracking in the US (to the point that the gas price has plunged and the US is now exporting its surplus). Many analysts believe that this extraction method won’t result in the same gas abundance in the UK and Europe – but that’s unlikely to stop the entrenched players from giving it a go. And meanwhile the balance will be imported from the same old sources.
The explosion in gas generation capacity seems inevitable (am I being fatalist?).
So it’s very polite of DECC to ask us our views on gas generation in the UK. But I strongly suspect they already know the answers to their questions – this call for evidence is the first step in softening us up, the starting gun in the new dash for gas.
As a post script, there could be some positive outcomes from this. CCGT is a compact technology. Ignoring CO2 for a moment, it’s particulate, SOx and NOx emissions are relatively low. So it can be incorporated directly into urban environments where people need the heat that would otherwise be thrown away. If we’ve got to have it, put it in the cities.
And as a post-post script, sometimes it takes more than 140 characters to get your point across.