Friday, September 14, 2012

Is the government gas plan going to bust the UK's carbon targets?

Duncan Clark's article at the Guardian's Environment Blog includes his opinion that movement towards natural gas-fired electricity generation are not being driven by long term thinking, but more immediate concerns of keeping on the lights in the next few years.

Is the government gas plan going to bust the UK's carbon targets? | Environment |
...what's going on here? It's hard to say. One possibility is that Decc officials haven't yet come to terms with the fact that their best-laid plans are going to be railroaded by the gas-loving Treasury. Another is that Decc has skilfully trodden a line between keeping the Treasury satisfied on the one hand while protecting the carbon budgets on the other.
My own hunch, however, is that the recent statements on gas have been driven less by the Treasury and more – rightly or wrongly – by a fear about keeping the lights on in the next five years. In a recent briefing, a senior figure in UK energy world told me that on current trends, spare capacity in the UK grid would get worrying low in a few years' time. The only way to be sure of reliable power supply in the short term, he said, would be to build more gas plants but this wasn't happening due to the uncertain investment climate – including for example lack of clarity on 'capacity payments' paid to owners of gas power plants that end up serving mainly as backup for renewables.
Read the entire article at

Notable quote from John Rowe, former Head of Exelon:
"Nobody wants to create reliability problems, last of all us. I know who hangs on the lamp pole first."
I believe George Monbiot has pointed out the likelihood that once the expense of building the gas capacity, and infrastructure, is spent, it is highly unlikely that the relatively cheap costs of actually generating electricity with it will not be utilized.
I have argued the data from Ontario is very clear: the capacity payments for fossil fuels in my province do mean the more generation from natural gas, the cheaper the price - and consequently the highest demand periods of the year have the lowest costs, per unit, for consumers.

The combination of feed-in tariffs and capacity payments does mean the more spent on renewables - including negawatts/demand reduction, the more expensive everything becomes.

These do not appear to be sustainable policies for sustainable energy.

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