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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 July, 2003, 06:24 GMT 07:24 UK
UK power cuts 'in 20 years'
Britain could face power cuts within the next 20 years as the country imports the bulk of its energy needs, a report says.

Gas fire
Britain might have to import gas from unstable countries, report says
The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) says 80% of the gas needed to fuel power stations will come from what it calls "politically unstable" countries thousands of miles away.

The report says that if the supply was interrupted the lights would start to go out within hours.

The institution said emission constraints mean that the UK's coal-powered generating plants will close shortly after 2016 and only one nuclear power station will remain operational beyond 2020.

At present, renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and wave can only provide a fraction of the total requirement.

Coal 32%
Nuclear 23%
Gas 38%
Oil 4%
Others 3%
Therefore Britain will be forced to import fuel by 2020, initially from Norway, but as demand across Europe exhausts supplies, Britain will be forced to source gas supplies from West Africa, the Middle East and the former Soviet Republics, it said.

Tom Foulkes, ICE director general, said: "Britain is a long way from the major new gas fields being developed in central Asia and Africa.

Under current plans, with no gas, this country would have no electricity
Tom Foulkes
"Can the security of the UK's gas supply be guaranteed, given that it will have to travel thousands of miles in a series of pipelines that are vulnerable to mechanical failure, sabotage and terrorist attack? What would happen then?

"Under current plans, with no gas, this country would have no electricity."

Grinding to a halt?

The ICE is urging the government to "develop a sustainable solution that incorporates a mix of all types of generation, including renewable sources like wind and wave power, nuclear and cleaner coal and gas-fired power stations".

David Anderson, chair of ICE's energy board, warned that the alternative was a "return to the blackouts that marked the 'Winter of Discontent' and brought the country grinding to a halt".

The Energy Minister, Stephen Timms, told the BBC he did not accept the bleak picture painted by the report - he had a different view of how the countries supplying our gas would develop.

"I think we've taken good account in the White Paper of the changing energy requirements and the patterns of supply over the next 20 years," he said.

"There are some major issues for us to address but I think we're on track for doing so."

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