UK to reach energy security “crunch point” in 2028

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Drax Group-commissioned research by Public First has shown that the UK will reach an energy security "crunch point" in 2028.
Entitled Mind the gap: Exploring Britain's energy crunch, the independent analysis found that, in 2028, a perfect storm will occur.
It will consist of an increase in demand, the retirement of existing assets and delays to the delivery of Hinkley Point C, culminating in demand exceeding secure dispatchable and baseload capacity by 7.5GW at peak times.
This shortfall is more than three times the secure de-rated power that Sizewell C will be capable of providing to the system when completed – 2.5GW – and nearly double the gap in 2022 (4GW), said Drax.
Uncertainty for biomass generators, which contribute over 3GW of secure dispatchable power, risks compounding the shortfall by nearly 50%, it added.
The analysis also shows that over the next five years the headroom between secure total supply and peak demand is tightest in 2028.
This is when total de-rated capacity is expected to be just 5GW higher than demand in peak times – this represents a significant reduction (c.-40%) from the average expected headroom across 2024-2027 (8.5GW).
The scale of the energy crunch will play out when National Grid ESO runs its T-4 Capacity Market Auction to procure sufficient power generating capacity to keep the lights on in 2027-28, said Drax.
The margin between target capacity the ESO wants to secure (44GW) and how much generation has entered the auction (43.4GW) is the tightest it has ever been since the auctions started ten years ago.
The research underscores that energy security will be a key issue in the next Parliamentary term. Without additional action taken to make up the shortfall, the UK will be more dependent on intermittent power from international energy interconnectors and renewables like wind and solar, according to Drax.
The report recommended that the government should:
- Extend the use of existing baseload generation assets which provide secure capacity, including nuclear plants scheduled to retire, and agree transitional arrangements for biomass operators that plan to install bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) technology;
- Work to reduce peak demand by encouraging flexibility and installing more home insulation.
Richard Gwilliam, Drax Group’s UK BECCS programme director, said: “Delivering energy security is a critical and longstanding challenge for all governments. The need to maintain it while tackling climate change and rapidly decarbonising economies makes the issue all the more acute.
“This research demonstrates the UK is facing a power generation crunch point, with demand set to outstrip the supply of secure dispatchable and baseload capacity – leaving the UK reliant on intermittent forms of generation.
"To keep the lights on, part of the solution will be extending the lives of existing generation assets. Drax Power Station and our pumped storage and hydro power sites already provide secure, renewable electricity for millions of homes and businesses – but there’s more we can do.
“Drax plans to massively expand the generation capacity of Cruachan pumped storage power station in Scotland, some of which could be available to help bridge the power gap.
"Additionally, providing we secure the appropriate transitional support, our project to deliver two units of BECCS at our Selby site would also support energy security and decarbonisation through the crunch and well into the future.”
Daisy Powell-Chandler, head of energy and environment at Public First, said: “Setbacks in bringing new nuclear and offshore wind online, the retirement of generation assets and increasing power demand will create an energy crunch point in 2028. But the challenge of keeping the lights on is not set in stone: policymakers have a suite of levers they can pull to ensure that we have a more secure, diverse, and sustainable energy system in the future.”

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