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‘No way’ will UK be net power exporter, utilities warn

12 May 2011 17:10:03 | edem

Representatives of the UK's Big Six warned members of parliament that plans for the country to become a net exporter of electricity in 2020 and beyond were "unrealistic".

The warning came during a parliamentary Energy and Climate Change Committee oral evidence session with senior executives from the Big Six suppliers on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, supporters of the proposed European Supergrid told the committee that, by investing heavily in offshore wind and the Supergrid, the UK could potentially export wind-generated power across Europe (see EDEM 11 May 2011).

But British Gas managing director Phil Bentley told members of parliament that plans to export power were "unrealistic", given the amount of generation capacity going off line over the coming decade, with reference to the large combustion plant directive (LCPD).

Under the LCPD, polluting power stations commissioned before 1987 - coal and oil plants in the UK - are defined as 'existing plants'. Such plants can either comply with the LCPD through installing emission abatement equipment, or opt out of the directive. Opting out would mean it could operate for a maximum of 20,000 hours from when the legislation took effect at the start of 2008, or until the end of 2015, whichever comes first.

"No way are we going to be a net exporter, given the demands we have in terms of replacing coal that is going off, the need to build new nuclear and the fact that we have now taxed UK North Sea gas at one of the highest taxations prevailing in the world," Bentley said.

Targets

The UK has heavily backed offshore wind to help meet its 2020 targets of cutting CO² emissions by 34% from 1990 base levels and an EU-set target to generate 30% of power from renewable sources.

The capital intensive nature of offshore wind coupled with questionable power generation capabilities were largely justified by predictions that the renewable source could transform the UK into an exporter in the long term.

Since 1997, the year the Department of Energy and Climate Change began collecting records, the UK has almost always been a net importer of power. In the second quarter of 2010, the country briefly became a net exporter, but this was considered an anomaly (see EDEM 30 September 2010).

Bentley was backed by E.ON UK energy and policy director Sara Vaughan, who said the best way to decarbonise the economy was "greater use of electricity" within sectors such as heating and transport.

However, since both the government and its advisory Climate Change Committee predicted a doubling of energy consumption in the UK between now and 2050, Vaughan said Bentley's view must be supported.

The Climate Change Committee itself questioned the reliance on offshore wind and called for a more flexible approach in a report released last Monday (see EDEM 9 May 2011). FOR

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