Energy bills rise risk for Britons as £178 could be added to your household bills | Personal Finance | Finance


Plans to build new gas fired power stations to keep the lights on will add more than £170 to household bills, it is claimed.

The government has announced the new plants will be required to provide back-up as the UK moves to a reliance on wind and solar energy.

Britain’s ability to generate electricity has become increasingly reliant on the weather as net zero targets spur a shift to renewable power.

However, periods of low wind and less sunlight, a phenomenon known as “dunkelflaute”, create problems for energy supplies.

Industry analysts calculate that the total cost of constructing the gas fired power plants that would be switched on in these circumstances to prevent blackouts would be around £5 billion.

They estimate this will add around £178 to bills which would be recouped over a number of years.

Tom Smout, of Aurora Energy Research, which looked at the costs, told the Telegraph: “What consumers are being asked to buy is energy security.

“The priority is to keep the lights on by having backup for the intermittency of renewables.

“An extra 5Gw of new backup generating capacity is needed to keep the lights on. Each gigawatt of capacity will cost about £1bn.”

Documents published on Tuesday by the Government said plans to boost Britain’s energy security by building more gas-fired power stations will be funded by bigger payments to plant operators, resulting in higher energy bills for homes and businesses.

According to official estimates published on Tuesday, gas plants are only expected to be used for around 700 hours in 2030 – the equivalent of about 29 days.

The predicted figure for 2035 is below half of that and falls to less than 100 hours from 2040 onwards.

Announcing the new gas-fired power stations on Tuesday, Claire Countinho, the Energy Secretary, said: “A weather-dependent, renewables-based electricity grid means we will need to have flexible power for when the wind doesn’t blow, and the sun doesn’t shine.

“Without gas backing up renewables, we face the genuine prospect of blackouts.”

Britain has about 32 gas-fired power stations with the capacity to generate about 27 gigawatts (Gw), enough to power around 20 million homes.

However, more than half face closure within the next few years, slashing generating capacity by 15Gw and leaving just 12Gw of existing plants available to the National Grid.

Another 9Gw of new capacity is already expected, which would take the total to 21Gw

But this falls short of the 22 to 28Gw of gas-fired plants that the Government estimates will be needed in 2035 to keep the lights on.

Kisha Couchman, deputy director of Energy UK, which represents suppliers, said: “The pathway to net zero set out by the Climate Change Committee does include a small role for unabated gas to ensure security of supply but the Government must also ensure that there is a clear decarbonisation pathway for these plants, either through carbon capture and storage or hydrogen.”

However, Baroness Brown, vice-chairman of the Climate Change Committee, said: “It is disappointing that the Government seems to be focused on fossil fuels as a stop gap and not long duration energy storage as a secure solution.”

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