Gas-fired power generation in the UK could face challenges if the UK sticks to its decarbonisation targets, according to a new report issued February 23 by the UK Energy Research Centre.
The report said that gas has only a limited role as a “bridge fuel” between the current generating system and a new, lower-carbon system for the future.
“The scope for a gas bridge in the UK is very limited,” the UK ERC said. Previously the UK ERC had said that gas did have a role as a bridge fuel in some countries that use a lot of coal.
According to the authors, without carbon capture and storage the use of gas in 2050 could be only one tenth of the 2010 level.
The UK needs to replace coal and nuclear plants that have closed over recent years to guarantee security of supply. But gas plants would have to run at “very low load factors” in the 2030s and beyond, if carbon targets are adhered to, unless the plant are fitted with carbon capture and storage equipment. That would need government encouragement.
“It is unlikely investors will be willing to build this capacity without strong policy incentives in place,” the UK ERC said.
The UK’s legally-binding targets require the country to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80% from 1990 levels by 2050. This will require more low carbon power generation from nuclear and renewable generation.
Mike Bradshaw, Professor of Global Energy at Warwick Business School and one of the writers of the report, said: “If all coal-fired power generation is to be removed by 2025, and we are no longer supporting the development of carbon capture and storage, policy makers must think carefully about how best to replace that capacity.”
Professor Jim Watson, Director of the UK Energy Research Center, said: “Without carbon capture and storage, there is little scope for gas use in power generation beyond 2030 and it will need to be steadily phased out over the next 35 years, and almost entirely removed by 2050.”