With nine oil and coal power plants due to close by 2015 due to a new EU directive designed to limit pollution, governments are warning of blackouts similar to those in the 1970’s by 2017. Energy regulator Ofgem stated the probability of power shortages would increase from once in 12 years by 2015 compared to once in 47 years now.
Ministers are now considering giving National Grid the power to switch on Mothballed power plants should demand require as well as the authority to switch power off during peak evening hours now that the most polluting coal fired power stations are being closed. However, not all power plants will be able to take advantage of this as only the ones who can meet the demand at very short notice will be allowed to reopen.
As well as the announcement to close power plants the government have also announced its financial guarantees of £10bn to the nuclear power industry. The government’s support of French energy generator EDF has been announced as part of a new infrastructure investment for 2015-2020 including schools, roads and affordable homes.
Energy Minister, Michal Fallon has stated the guarantees were not a subsidy but a commercial loan saying “This is big scale financing, not available in the markets”. He also stated that similar guarantees had been offered to Drax Power station to convert from coal to biomass.
EDF currently have a site prepared for use at Hinckley Point in Somerset alongside two already existing power stations but the use of this won’t go ahead unless the government can agree to a price for the new electricity the plant would produce.