A new £710m gas-fired power station opens on Monday, the first large-scale gas plant of its kind to come online in Britain for four years. But a stone’s throw away, on the same spot in Carrington, near Manchester, there is a patch of weed-strewn concrete where a second gas station was meant to be. It is the latter wasteland, say critics of the UK energy market, that is the real monument to Britain’s ambitions of revitalising gas-powered energy generation. A combination of poor returns and the success of renewable energy has made investors turn their backs on gas, even though it is seen as vital to ensuring Britain has enough electricity capacity. The new gas plant is an 884-megawatt power station owned by ESB, the Irish state-owned company. It will generate four times as much electricity as the disused coal plant, closed in 1991, that used to stand on the same sprawling site. But plans for an adjacent 1.9-gigawatt gas station, to be built by Carlton Power, stalled last year as the company struggled to raise investment. It ultimately had to give up a £450m government contract that required it to start producing electricity in late 2019. A succession of energy ministers have been trying to encourage more gas-powered generation to keep the UK’s lights on, particularly during periods when renewables are not generating electricity as there is little wind or sun. But investors and utility companies have been reluctant: in recent years the margins between buying gas and selling the electricity produced to the market have been wafer thin.
FT 13th March 2017 read more »