Power struggle: fears for UK energy generation as green projects delayed

(The Guardian, 16 Feb 2024) Path to relying solely on green power appears long as series of problems collides with reality of keeping the lights on.

By road, the 280-mile journey from Hadrian’s Wall to Peterhead takes in stunning Scottish countryside, quaint villages and busy suburbs. But the lengthy route is also to become a building site for vast power lines connecting offshore windfarms with urban centres.

The Scottish route, and other big lines including another following the M6 through Cumbria, is expected to be part of a “national transmission plan” being devised by National Grid, which could be published in time for March’s budget. The drive to net zero is expected to increase demand for electricity supplies, and Great Britain’s grid is being rewired and expanded to accommodate the many new green energy projects.

Policymakers face a tricky decade as the target of decarbonising the electricity system by 2035 collides with the day-to-day job of keeping the lights on and ensuring electric vehicles, heat pumps and industrial machinery are powered.

In worst-case scenarios, Britain’s power plants will struggle to meet the surging demand forecast in the early 2030s if a series of nascent technologies – from hydrogen power stations to carbon capture and storage (CCS) – struggle to take off. The scenarios vary wildly, but doomsday predictionsleave Britain with 39 gigawatts less power than previous forecasts. This could mean 28 hours – just over a day – during the year 2035 when there will not be enough supply to meet demand. The shortfall is being called the electricity gap.

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The Guardian, 16 Feb 2024: Power struggle: fears for UK energy generation as green projects delayed