The renewable energy sector is booming, especially within the UK, where the range of renewable energy sources has increased to include biomass heating among others. With that, this week the WWF has released a plea to the government that outdated coal power stations should not be replaced by gas-powered plants, but instead by renewable sources.
The UK government has already promised to pull the plug on all coal power stations by the year 2025, but did say that large gas powered stations would be built as replacements, with some big corporate companies such as Drax and German company RWE intending to build large scale gas plants on current coal power sites.
These gas plants were integral to the scheme to remove coal-generated power from the energy mix and reducing carbon emissions, with then energy secretary Amber Rudd saying it was “imperative” to have these plants built within the following 10 years. The UK government is one of the first in the world to commit to becoming coal-free by 2025 and are using a focus on renewables to help encourage other countries to do the same.
According to the Guardian, the environmental group has put forward a scheme where the gap left by coal stations is filled with renewable sources, battery storages and flexible technology, which would mean a transition from ‘coal to clean’.
Gareth Redmond-King, the WWF’s head of climate and energy, is questioning the government’s commitment to less clean energy when more efficient resources have now been proven: “If we don’t need large-scale gas, if it can’t compete with renewables and there’s no need for it, why would you need a route to market for it? It is essential the government does not substitute one dirty power source for another,” he said.
The WWF has used official government data forecasts to showcase that growth in power supplied by renewables including solar and wind energy more than enough covers the shortcoming from the closure of coal plants.
The government has already allocated £557 million to further renewables energy, which will further increase output, however, it has axed some subsidies for solar power and onshore wind, despite supporting further offshore wind investment. The WWF have also called for the government to reconsider this stance and invest more in land-based renewable energies that are also considered cheap.
However, critics of the WWF report say that for a reliable power system, a varied energy mix relying on different sources and technologies is required. Tom Glover, the UK country chair for RWE, debates the figures provided also: “The exact amount of gas capacity required is extremely uncertain but the vast majority of forecasts anticipate a significantly higher requirement than suggested in this report,” he said.
For the gas industry, the UK is an important market, with almost half of their wish list for new sites within Europe currently on British soil. The last large gas plant was built in the UK in 2016 at Carrington – before that, the previous built was in 2012.