Will lights go out sooner than previously predicted?

New figures show the lights may go out sooner than we thought
Our coal-fired power stations are closer to extinction than predicted, and wind power stubbornly refuses to fill the gap, says Christopher Booker.
Sunday Telegraph   24 April 2011

Figures published last week reveal that the moment when Britain’s lights start going out may be much closer than previously predicted. Thanks in part to the hammering they took in the abnormal cold of last winter, six large coal-fired power stations which supply a fifth of Britain’s average electricity needs have now used up more than half of the 20,000 running hours they are each allowed under the EU’s Large Combustion Plants directive. When they reach that limit they will have to shut down.

Furthermore, in two years’ time, the Government’s new “carbon tax” will make them £600 million a year more expensive to run. Their mainly German owners will therefore want to use up as many of those hours as possible before a charge of £16 for every ton of CO2 they emit comes into force in 2013.

Industry sources are suggesting that the six plants, including Kingsnorth, Ferrybridge, Didcot A and Tilbury, may close two years earlier than the forecast date of 2015. Ever since the Blair government’s disastrous 2003 Energy White Paper, which in effect turned its back on replacing coal-fired and nuclear power stations in favour of renewable energy, it has been clear that we would eventually face a 40 per cent shortfall in our electricity supplies.

Yet nothing better brings home the utter folly of our politicians’ infatuation with wind power than the fact that three of the huge coal-fired power plants we must soon lose each provide nearly twice as much electricity as all our 3,000 wind turbines put together.

During those freezing, windless weeks last winter, when we were often using up to 60 gigawatts of power, 40 per cent of it from coal, the contribution of all those windmills was so minuscule that several times it appeared as 0 per cent.

Even in last week’s hot weather, it was still so derisory that more than once we were having to import four times as much power from France – made by the nuclear reactors which our own politicians dislike almost as much as the coal-fired plants they don’t want to see replaced. Truly there is madness here.