Dozens of new fossil-fuelled power stations are being planned by energy companies, which environmental groups say could crowd out wind and other green energy projects.
The claims have prompted calls for companies to compare business energy prices, as the ‘dash for gas’ places further pressure on gas and electricity prices.
The Guardian newspaper has reported that ‘a deluge’ of applications are queueing up in the planning system for gas schemes, and environmental groups fear these lock Britain into a higher carbon future at a time when it is trying to promote renewable power to cut emissions.
Freinds of the Earth campaigner Simon Bullock told the Guardian that the gas projects were being fast-forwarded on the basis that the UK had an ‘urgent’ need for them to replace old nuclear and coal plants.
“Instead of there being an ‘urgent’ need for new gas, there is in fact no need for new gas – beyond the capacity already being built or with planning permission. The new capacity the government says is needed by 2025 is already either under construction or has planning permission,” Mr Bullock told the Guardian.
Gas is seen as attractive by developers because plants are relatively cheap and quick to construct. The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) regards the fast-tracked planning process for gas schemes as an efficient means of replacing out-of-date infrastructure.
“The transition to low carbon energy can’t just happen overnight. Gas in particular will be needed to provide vital flexibility to support an increasing amount of low-carbon generation and to maintain security of supply,” a DECC spokesman explained.
“In the long term there is likely to be a role for gas plant equipped with carbon capture and storage, which is why new gas plants are required to be built carbon capture ready and the carbon capture and storage demonstration competition is open to gas plant as well as coal plant.”
In a recent report, the Green Alliance think tank has also claimed that the ‘dash for gas’ would increase the cost of cutting the country’s carbon emissions, leading to higher prices for domestic and business energy users.
Julian Morgan, managing director of the Energy Advice Line, an impartial price comparison and switching service exclusively for businesses, said the turbulence in the energy supply market was further reason for firms to shop around for the best available business energy deals.
“It’s essential for companies to compare business energy prices in order to get the best deal – there’s not other way to do it when the energy supply market is this volatile,” Mr Morgan said.
“Businesses need to ensure they use an impartial service like the Energy Advice Line that thoroughly compares the market and gives independent advice.
“Business energy tariffs can be complex, as there are so many on the market, but our team is highly experienced in helping businesses find the best available deal, and helping them switch.”