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energy shortage
What a mess

The Daily Mail has revealed the “real energy crisis roaring down on Britain” as, within 7 years, the country will lose 40 per cent of all existing electricity-generating capacity.

The UK is about to see 17 major power stations forced to close, leaving a massive energy shortfall, says a report from respected writer Christopher Booker.

From as early as 2010, experts say Britain’s power stations cannot be guaranteed to provide a continuous supply, meaning the possibility of power cuts far worse than those which last week – largely unreported – blacked out half-a-million homes.

By 2015, when the power stations which meet two-fifths of current UK electricity needs have gone out of business, Britain could be facing the most serious disruption to its power supplies since the ‘three-day week’ of the 1970s.

Compared with then, our dependence on continuous electricity supplies is infinitely greater – thanks to use of computers.

Scarcely an office, shop, bank or hospital in the land would be able to function. Our railway system would be immobilised. Road traffic would be in chaos as traffic lights ceased to operate and petrol stations closed down.

Scaremongering? Just look at the hard facts. At the moment, to meet Britain’s peak electricity demand, power stations need to provide a minimum 56 gigawatts (GW) of capacity.

Ten gigawatts, nearly a fifth, comes from ageing nuclear power stations, all but one of which are so old that over the next few years they will have reached the end of their useful working life.

On top of that, however, the UK will shut down nine more major power stations – six coal-fired, three oil-fired – forced to close by the crippling cost of complying with an EU anti-pollution law, the Large Combustion Plants directive.

This will take out another 13GW of capacity, bringing the total shortfall to 22GW – 40 per cent of 56GW generated today.

For more than two decades, Britain built gas-fired power stations, when it still had abundant supplies of cheap gas from the North Sea.

But that is fast running out. Within 12 years, UK will import 80 per cent of our gas, at a time when world prices are soaring – and it would be folly to become over-dependent for energy on countries as politically unreliable as Mr Putin’s Russia, where gas is produced.

“Building new coal-fired stations might have made more sense if we hadn’t closed down most of our own coal industry, and if this didn’t now involve the colossal extra costs imposed by the new EU rules. “

The Mail moans: “As we saw from the recent response to a proposed new coal-fired plant in Kent, any mention of coal-burning has the green lobby screaming up the wall.

As the Government itself has belatedly recognised, by far the most sensible way to try to fill the gap would be to build a new generation of nuclear power stations. But how on earth is this to be done?

There are only a handful of companies equipped to build these nuclear power plants, and countries all over the world are queuing up to place their own orders.”

Until October 2006, the British Government itself owned one such firm, Westinghouse, but in an act of supreme folly we sold it to Toshiba in Japan for a knockdown £2.8 billion – and it has 19 new orders on its books already.

Our best hope, it seems, is the state-owned French company EDF (Electricit de France), which has recently been bidding to buy British Energy, owner of almost all our existing nuclear power stations.

These would provide the most obvious sites on which to build new ones.

France, of course, went for nuclear energy in a big way just when we were retreating from it – having been world leader for 20 years – and currently derives 80 per cent of its electricity from 58 nuclear power stations.

But with such a worldwide demand for new nuclear power, what chance is there that even EDF could provide enough reactors to meet our needs, when building each new one might take ten years or more?

Yet another reason why we have allowed this mindbogglingly serious crisis to creep up on us has been the obsession of those who rule us – both in London and in Brussels – with ‘renewable’ energy.

Incredibly, we are ‘obliged’ by the EU, within 12 years, to generate no less than 38 per cent of our electricity from renewable sources – such as tens of thousands of wind turbines – when currently only 4 per cent comes from renewables, with wind farms providing barely 1 per cent.

As our Government privately recognises, we have no hope of achieving even a fraction of that target.

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