THE risk of the UK being hit by power blackouts by 2030 has risen as the economic crisis hampers efforts to upgrade the electricity infrastructure, experts have warned.
A hard-hitting report into global energy requirements said more needs to be done to secure the country’s electricity supply.
The prospect of households experiencing frequent power cuts as a result of demand for electricity outstripping supply in less than two decades’ time was raised in the study conducted by energy experts at PricewaterhouseCoopers. (PwC) The report, which was based on the views of 72 executives in power companies across the world, revealed that half of those surveyed saw a medium to high probability that the number of customers in fuel poverty will increase significantly over the next 20 years, particularly in Europe.
The harsh economic conditions have made it difficult to build the infrastructure required to ensure a smooth electricity supply, the report said.
Of those surveyed, 78 per cent reported that the economic downturn has had a medium to very high impact on shortage of capital for projects. The report “The Shape of Power to Come” also said “policy bottlenecks” would cast further doubts over future energy supply.
When European executives were surveyed, 53 per cent of them predicted an increased risk of blackouts in the period to 2030 compared with only 16 per cent expecting a decreased risk.
Michael Timar, power and utilities specialist at PwC in Scotland, said: “Competing concerns about affordability and the required pace of infrastructure investment in western power markets are translating into unease about security of energy supply.
“The outcome of current policy development on energy security, affordability and efficiency are far from certain, and there is a considerable degree of concern about whether there will be enough done to resolve these issues in the next 20 years.”
As it outlined its vision for the future, the report also predicted that the need for clean energy will result in a “significant” proportion of the world’s car fleet being run on electricity.
Although PwC forecast a move away from fossil fuels, it would not be enough to meet the 2030 requirement to limit global warming to an average of two degrees centigrade.
Overall, power companies expect their fuel mix to change from current levels of 66 per cent fossil fuels compared to 34 per cent non-fossil fuel. By 2030 that mix will change to 57 per cent fossil fuel and 43 per cent non-fossil fuel.
Despite the concerns about keeping the lights on, Mr Timar said the changing energy market could help Scotland’s drive towards renewable energy, which is being championed by the SNP government.
“Closer to home, the expected fuel mix shift away from fossil fuels indicates a significant opportunity for economic growth through the development of renewables – even more so if for the likes of offshore wind, tidal and wave technologies we can capture the intellectual property on home soil,” he said.
Last night the National Grid, Energy UK and energy companies were reluctant to comment until they had read the report.
A Scottish energy industry source said: “There is not very much concern regarding blackouts. There is enough renewable and gas generation in the planning system for the future.”