Experts warn of energy shortfall

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The Independent Online

New nuclear reactors cannot be built in time to fill the huge shortfall in electricity generating capacity expected a decade from now, top energy company executives will warn the Government this week.

The Coal Forum, a group of leading industry figures set up over the summer as part of the Government's Energy Review, will instead argue for support for the construction of a new generation of clean coal plants.

If no new plants are built, there will be a generation gap of around 20GW (around a third of the UK's total existing capacity) by 2016. Some 8GW of old coal plants will have to shut by the end of 2015 to comply with European pollution regulations.

The energy industry wants the Government to provide grants and guarantees to make carbon capture and storage projects at new coal plants economic. The Energy Review will frame policy for the next 50 years and beyond. Debate had focused on whether new nuclear reactors should be built to replace these old plants.

But officials from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), which is leading the review, have now privately conceded that it is impossible for new nuclear reactors to be built in time because of the long construction process involved and the need to overhaul the UK's planning regime and electricity market.

Ian Marchant, the chief executive of Scottish & Southern Energy; Gerry Spindler, the chief executive of UK Coal; Brendan Barber, the general secretary of the TUC and David Porter, the head of the Association of Electricity Producers, are among the members of the forum. Malcolm Wicks, who was Energy minister until last week, had also been due to take part.

A DTI spokesman said that sufficient new plants would come on stream between now and 2016 to meet the shortfall.