It is high noon for Britain’s fledgling energy policy. Years of failed interventions, arbitrary green targets and damaging subsidies will come to a head in this week’s capacity auction, when we will either see investors commit to building desperately needed new power plants or simply walk away.
The stakes could not be higher, for the Government and for those policymakers who believed they had designed a credible strategy to keep the lights on.
How have we got here and why does so much in this sector now hang on a complicated and little-known auction process?
The overriding issue remains the urgent need to replace old coal-fired power stations, which have served the UK since the 1960s, with new plants that burn natural gas to generate electricity. At this stage, we can forget Hinkley C, as it will not be ready in time.
These gas-fired power stations, known as CCGTs, can be built relatively quickly, are much cheaper than new nuclear plants, and are 50pc cleaner than coal; however, they are years behind schedule, because of a failure by government to deliver the right investment landscape.
Very few economies are relatively strong without competitive energy costs. The UK has not been in this position since North Sea oil revenues from approximately 1981 through 2003 went into significant decline thereafter, leading to increased energy import dependency from 2004 onwards (see graph which Telegraph subscribers can access via the link above).
Thereafter, inadequate long-term planning by successive UK governments, combined with EU group think on leadership in emissions control. Unfortunately, this was achieved at the cost of future energy supplies. Until this problem is adequately addressed by the government, commencing with extensive fracking, UK energy costs will remain higher than necessary and supplies will be barely adequate.
Here is a PDF of The Telegraph’s article.Back to top