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UK households will face escalating electricity bills or peak-time power cuts by 2015, according to John Constable, director of policy and research at the Renewable Energy Foundation.

Constable has been named as a guest speaker at IChemE’s Gasification 2009 conference, which is due to be held on 24 March in Dusseldorf, Germany.

Writing in the Guardian newspaper recently, Constable warned that the UK faces a significant shortage in electric generation capacity within six years and that price hikes or power cuts are likely.

The newspaper also revealed that government officials are negotiating to soften the impact of EU Directives affecting the operation of fossil-fuel power stations and their emissions of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.

Constable wrote: ‘Industry analysts have for some time been predicting that the lack of reliable capacity in the electricity industry would force the government to seek humiliating exemptions from the European Union’s (EU) Large Combustion Plant Directive (LCPD) and its successor legislation in order to keep dirty power stations online that would otherwise be phased out by the directive.

‘The government has underestimated the impact of the regulations and has failed to recognise that the LCPD would probably require the closure of the bulk of the UK’s coal generation fleet by 2016.’ Constable also described the UK’s ‘extreme dependence’ on imported gas as ‘reckless’ and warned that ministers have failed to understand that the security of supply contribution from renewables, even if built, would be modest.

He added: ‘A modern, diversified power fleet must consist of nuclear plants, high-efficiency and therefore cleaner coal-fired power stations, including gasifiers predesigned to be ready to capture CO2 for the purpose of enhanced oil (and gas) recovery in the North Sea.

‘Dedicated biomass and unlimited co-firing of biomass with coal might also help here, although most of this fuel will have to be imported.

‘Offshore wind will also assist.’ John Griffiths, Gasification 2009 conference chairman said Constable’s observations are relevant beyond the UK.

‘The UK power industry can be regarded as a microcosm of that of the EU, with most of the issues facing the UK mirrored in other countries,’ he said.

He added: ‘In 2006, the Department of Trade and Industry published a report, “The Energy Challenge”, identifying two ‘immense’ challenges – energy security and climate change.

‘Constable has emphasised that these immense challenges are probably even more immense today.’

IChemE (Institution of Chemical Engineers)

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