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Rishi Sunak’s Plans for New Gas Power Stations Will Leave UK ‘Stranded’ in Push for Net Zero

The Chair of a cross-party committee condemned the Prime Minister’s plans for a new wave of fossil fuel power plants

Climate activists from Mothers Rise Up stage a protest at the gates of Downing Street Photo: Ron Fassbender/Alamy Live News

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Energy Secretary, Claire Coutinho and the chair of a senior House of Lords committee last night clashed over the future of the UK’s energy security needed to safeguard the Government’s move to Net Zero by 2035.

The row blew up after the minister announced a new wave of gas fired power stations as a standby for renewable energy on the eve of a House of Lords report calling for the opposite solution – a new network of long term storage sites for surplus renewables.

The Energy Secretary said the new gas fired power stations – to replace existing plant coming to the end of its useful life – was “a common sense solution” to prevent black outs should renewable energy fail through lack of wind and sun. She was backed by Rishi Sunak, who said: “I will not gamble with our energy security. I will make the tough decisions so that no matter what scenario we face, we can always power Britain from Britain.

However, Baroness Brown of Cambridge, the crossbench chair of the Lords Science and Technology Committee, denounced the decision describing the new gas fired power stations as “stranded assets” and leaving the UK open to “volatile gas prices”.

She said: “A strategic reserve of hydrogen as a means of low-carbon long-duration energy storage would insulate the UK against dependence on volatile gas prices whilst allowing it to continue decarbonising the electricity system. We should be building this now rather than designing in delay by expecting the market to deliver fossil-fuelled plants that will hardly be used and will rapidly become stranded assets.”

The Lords report also criticises the government for not getting its act together to set up a new network of storage sites which can take years to get planning permission, time to build and need to be connected to the national grid to be effective.

The report says: “Long-duration storage facilities can take 7–10 years to build and require up-front capital investment. Developers need a clear business case, supporting infrastructure such as grid connections, and financial support in order to invest.


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“Energy storage has multiple benefits. It allows a greater amount of cheap renewable power to be integrated into the electricity system, lowering the overall cost of electricity for consumers. It provides power capacity that can be switched on and off, making the grid more flexible.”

“It avoids the waste when, as often occurs today, renewables have to be curtailed due to excess supply or congestion on the grid. And it provides electricity system services to the grid, such as the ability to restart after power failures. For many of these services, energy storage facilities can replace fossil fuel power plants.”

The peers say if a network of storage facilities were set up the UK could export their surplus power and the new technology to other countries. But it warns that to do nothing now would make it extremely unlikely that the UK would be able to meet the target of a fully decarbonised power system by 2035.

Baroness Brown added: “In light of the huge economic damage the recent energy crisis has caused, it is distressing to see that the Government lacks a clear plan for energy supply risks and indeed is still deliberating over investment in long-duration storage to prevent future crises. A strategic reserve of electricity storage is a critical investment to secure the UK’s energy supply against future shocks, but the Government is still equivocating over whether it is necessary to invest in one.”

The report is also a challenge to Labour which has had to scale down its ambitious net zero programme because of lack of money. Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, appeared to back Rishi Sunak yesterday by saying it would build new gas power stations as well.

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