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Britain must brace for power blackouts - experts warn

The UK will experience prolonged power cuts in five years unless urgent action is taken now, a report by leading energy experts has warned.

The report, by pro nuclear group Fells Associates, said new nuclear reactors would not be ready in time to replace those reaching the end of their lives, and questioned spending on renewable energy.

The report "A Pragmatic Energy Policy for the UK" blames 25 years of of "piecemeal legislation" for putting the UK in a "crisis situation".

"Over the last 25 years successive governments have failed to form a coherent, realistic and structured energy policy for the UK. The business and industrial community, which has already been forced to accept energy prices far in excess of its European counterparts, is now expressing grave disquiet.

"Piecemeal legislation has resulted in a crisis situation for both short-term and long- term energy supply in the UK. Industry insiders predict major shortages within the next five years," says the report.

Co-author Professor Ian Fells said unrealistic "green" aspirations and wishful thinking about unachievable quantities of offshore wind generation has led to under-investment in energy base load infrastructure to replace the loss of one third of generating capacity over the next decade which the UK faces.

"The report discloses a staggering lack of understanding of the technical and engineering reality of what can be built within a short time scale.

"The default position with the current policy is more gas, with all the political uncertainties on availability and price that implies," said Fells, a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering.

The report sets out a string of initiatives needed for the short term including:

- More inter-connectors to Norway, Germany, France and the Netherlands
- Burning of municipal waste in incinerators to generate electricity, to provide power around large conurbations and cut down on landfill
- Coal power station life extensions may become essential despite the EU emissions directive post-2015
- Some further nuclear station life extensions and the nuclear new-build programme must start urgently to have a new station by 2018
- Government assistance for research into carbon capture and storage, which must be demonstrated urgently if CO2 emissions are to be reduced and security of supply improved
- Increased strategic gas storage
- In future all CO2-free generation, including nuclear, should attract a premium.

The report highlights how a Severn Barrage, currently the subject of a government study, could provide 5% of UK electricity within 10 years but an urgent decision either way is needed to keep an overall integrated energy policy on course.

“All in all it will be a close run thing to provide electricity to keep the lights on through the next decade. A coherent strategic plan, as laid out in our “Route Map to Energy Survival” in the Report should do the trick”, Fells said.

Industrialist Andrew Cook, who commissioned the report, added:
"A fearful void has opened in which we need more electricity yet increasingly lack the means to generate it."

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