A report from the World Wildlife Fund has called on the UK to halt production of new gas power plants and focus on renewable power generation, as the country moves towards the coal switch of 2025.
When Amber Rudd, the then Secretary of State, announced the UK coal phase-out back in 2015, she said ‘in the next 10 years, it’s imperative that we get new gas-fired power stations built,’ but the report says that renewables can replace the electricity generated by coal.
New large gas plants – which are designed to last 30+ years and are capable of operating 24/7 – are ‘incompatible with the UK’s climate targets,’ unnecessarily costly for UK consumers and will lock the UK into higher gas use and carbon emissions, according to the report.
In the latest capacity market in February 2018, 10 large gas plants with a capacity of 12GW applied for 15-year contracts, and a further five with a capacity of 10GW are readying themselves to apply in future auctions.
These include big energy firms Drax and Germany’s RWE, who hope to build large-scale gas plants on the sites of former power stations in Yorkshire and Essex, respectively.
The report says that by 2025 electricity output from renewable sources will exceed the highest level of coal electricity generated in any year this century (which was 142 TWh in 2006).
The report makes five key recommendations.
- The UK invests more in wind and solar.
- Do not bring forward policy measures to support new build large gas plants.
- Prevent excess emissions from small peaking gas.
- Increase innovation funding for long-term electricity storage technologies.
- Mitigate the risk of a slower fall in gas use, and begin planning now for a gas phase-out.
Gareth Redmond-King, the WWF’s head of climate and energy, said: ‘If we don’t need large-scale gas, if it can’t compete with renewables and there’s no need for it, why would you need a route to market for it?
‘It is essential the government does not substitute one dirty power source for another.’
A spokesperson for Drax said: ‘A reliable power system depends on a range of generation technologies to provide crucial system support services.’
Read the report here