UK Does Not Need To Turn To Gas, Says WWF

The UK’s 2025 coal phase-out will be completed without building large gas plants, says WWF study

Renewables, storage and more flexible technology will provide enough electricity to keep the UK’s grid stable as coal is wound down, according to a new report.

The UK’s planned large-scale gas projects ‘aren’t required’ and the renewable generation will surpass coal’s contribution to the energy mix by 2022, said the ‘Coal to Clean’ study from climate change think tank Sandbag and WWF.

The analysis challenges the theory that phasing out coal will require large new gas plants. Amber Rudd, when energy secretary in 2015, said: “In the next 10 years, it’s imperative that we get new gas-fired power stations built.”

Almost half of the gas industry’s hopes for new power stations for Europe are slated for the UK but developers have failed to win subsidy contracts through the main route to market, the government’s capacity market.

The report found that approximately 5GW of gas capacity will be required to provide a basic, underpinning level of power in 2025 to support intermittency in renewables. As the UK already has almost 10GW of highly efficient combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) power stations built in this decade, the large-scale gas plants planned to pick up the slack from coal-fired stations are no longer required.

‘Gas bridge’ not required

“Amazingly, the UK’s coal phase-out will not require a ‘gas bridge’ as many predicted,” said Sandbag analyst Charles Moore. “Surging renewable energy ensures that gas use in the power sector has already peaked. The UK does not need to build any more large gas power plants to keep the lights on.

“Measures to support the construction of a new wave of large gas plants would prove a costly mistake for energy bill-payers and the climate. Ultimately, meeting our climate objectives will require a total gas phase-out: the government must begin planning for this now.”

Gareth Redmond-King, the WWF’s head of climate and energy, said: “If we don’t need large-scale gas, if it can’t compete with renewables and there’s no need for it, why would you need a route to market for it? It is essential the government does not substitute one dirty power source for another.”

The full report can be viewed here.

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