Britain could face electricity blackouts

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Sunday, April 16, 2006

British MPs on the Commons Environmental Audit Committee warn Britain could face widespread electrical blackouts if new generating capacity is not added soon.

Clean and renewable generating methods will be preferred in the Government's energy review, including a return to nuclear power generation. But the committee warned that no new nuclear power plants are expected to come online until at least 2017 with the proposed network not reaching full capacity until as late as 2030. Meanwhile nearly a quarter of Britain's current generating capacity is scheduled to go offline by 2016, creating a shortfall described by the committee as a "generation gap" which could not be bridged by nuclear energy.

"Very substantial investment in new generating capacity and energy efficiency will be required if the lights are to stay on," committee chairman Conservative MP Tim Yeo said. The committee stated that an "extensive" building programme of new gas-fired power stations would be needed to meet the predicted shortfall.

The committee's statement drew some support from environmentalists as well as from some energy sector industries. Friends of the Earth was cautiously cheered by the committee's commitment to energy efficiency, and support of reduced emissions. "...people understand renewables is the next big thing and we should get on with it," said Maf Smith, CEO of Scottish Renewables to BBC.

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