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Power Cuts in the UK? £110bn of infrastructure upgrades needed

Wind turbines

The government faces a hefty bill if it wants to keep the lights on in Britain and avoid widespread power cuts, warns the Telegraph.

As debates rage between ministers on whether to build new nuclear plants, how much to pay for wind power, and how much to invest in gas, concern is growing that ministers are struggling to juggle the energy security, green targets and affordability.

Current production capacity is almost 89 Gigawatts, significantly more than is needed (the highest level of demand ever recorded in Great Britain in £60bn), but electricity demand is forecast to double by 2050.

However, the Telegraph reports that this is because many older power stations being closed to comply with green committments, and nine ageing nuclear power stations due to be switched off between 2014 and 2023.

Vincent de Rivaz, chief executive of EDF Energy told the Telegraph that the £110bn worth of upgrades was fast becoming an urgent matter: “The number of £110bn that has to be met is real. If that doesn’t happen, we will have a problem. But I think it will happen.”

Peter Atherton, an independent utilities analyst said: “They are trying to drive through a change in an industry that is gigantic and profoundly important to the whole economy and for all our lives.

“They are trying to transform it: to drive out fossil fuel generation and replace it with lots of renewables and a heavy element of nuclear, in a fabulously short period of time.

“If you just had to worry about doing that, it would be really hard. You have also got to worry about the fact that a lot of the technologies you are asking companies to invest in are very immature and incredibly expensive.”

The shift to greener methods of energy production is driven by the government’s commitment to reduce emissions from 1990 levels by at least 80% by 2050. But if nuclear and wind fail observers suspect gas will be the only option left, meaning the government could miss these environmental targets.

Richard Smith, who heads National Grid’s Future Transmission Networks team, told the Telegraph: “If you’re looking to address a security of supply issue, gas will be the cheapest, simplest and quickest thing you can do.”

However, while gas offers greater security to stop the lights going out it may come at a cost, as any British household will tell you.

Learn more

Wholesale gas – find out the how energy suppliers buy the gas they then sell to us and what affects the cost of your energy at home.

Renewable energy – Some facts about renewable energy, including how you can make your home greener .

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