Saturday, September 19, 2009

Could London Go Dark?

I remember watching documentaries about London in WWII when it suffered countless bombing attacks from the Germans. One of the UK's defense measures against these attacks was to turnoff all of the lights to limit the visual targets for the German bombers. Unfortunately, England may be seeing some form of a blackout again. At least it is not due to the threat of some country's aerial attack.

Britain is running short of power. It is facing the shut down of many power stations over the next decade and its energy supply from its own internal resources is becoming tight. The government estimates that 750GW in generating capacity will be gone by 2015. Ironically, the economic recession has perhaps pushed this out a little further because the demand for energy has dropped; however, it is hoped and believed that this economic down turn will end shortly.

Britain's energy grids have already shown some strain when it was hit by a harsh winter in 2005-06. It has faced blackouts recently due to two power stations failing at the same time. The problem is that Britain is facing aging power stations and a shortage of alternative resources and new power stations. In addition, the building of new "cleaner" power stations, such as nuclear, would take years to get one up and running and other alternative resources, such as solar. On top of that Britain has committed to lower its carbon emissions by 34% lower than its levels in 1990 by 2020 and 80% by 2050. As a result, it cannot turn to a reliable and abundant energy source, such as coal, because it is the largest fossil fuel emitter. The government is looking at expanding its alternative energy resources such as wind power. In fact, the UK is looking at getting 33GW of energy from its offshore wind program. This is an incredible leap considering now they only get 0.6GW. In addition, they would need to build 5000 turbine over the next 11 years to meet this goal. Another source could be gas; however, the supply from the North Sea is shrinking. This means that the Brits will need to rely on foreign sources such as Russia and the Middle East. This dependency could jeopardize the UK's security.

In the future, we may see many countries facing a similar energy crisis as they are limited on the type of energy resource they can use due to their commitments to meet certain carbon emissions reduction goals. This is a tough trade off; however, it seems like trade off that must been done in order to reduced global warming.

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