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Lights out, Britons told - we're running out of power

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Exclusive Carbon quango The Energy Saving Trust has come up with a new reason for Britons to save energy in the home. Our power stations will soon close, and you'll need to do your bit.

That's what one Reg reader discovered, after enquiring about the Trust's calculations on the effectiveness of new low-energy bulbs.

"A reduction in electricity consumption will be essential over the coming decade as a large number of power stations are being withdrawn from service, and as a result there is a gap looming between supply and demand," Graham Crocker was told. "More efficient lighting (which accounts for nearly 20 per cent of domestic electricity consumption) will go some way to alleviating these demand pressures." The answer came from Alex Stuart, assistant manager of services of development at the quango.

"This is the first time anybody has acknowledged that new power capacity will not be delivered on time to replace existing capacity," Peter Lilley MP told us.

There's no doubt that Britain faces a looming energy crisis. CapGemini estimates that a quarter of the UK's energy plant capacity will close by 2015. The nation will also see declining oil and gas output from the North Sea. But new, replacement power generation will not arrive in time.

The capacity crisis is largely a consequence of EU environmental directives. The Large Combustion Plant Directive (LCPD), which affects coal and oil power stations generating 50MW or more, obliges plant operators to adapt their stations by the end of 2015, or close them down. E.ON has decided that three of its four stations which fall under the directive will shut.

But the directive was introduced in 2001, leaving the state plenty of time to plan ahead.

"There is a gap looming because of New Labour's incompetence," James Woudhuysen, Professor of Forecasting at De Montfort University, and co-author of Energise! told us.

In 2003, then PM Tony Blair had blocked plans for new nuclear power stations, he pointed out. "Today's government is now planning nuclear operations to resume in 2018, but more likely 2025," says Woudhuysen.

But should the public turn out the lights because of years because of the failure of political leadership?

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