It is expected that the UK will become a net importer of oil and gas by 2015. To secure the supply of energy and at the same time achieve its carbon reduction policy objectives, the UK Government has introduced a number of measures to encourage more renewable energy generation. Renewables accounted for 9.4% of the electricity generated in the UK during 2011 with an output of 34.4 TWh, 2.6 percentage points higher than during 2010. Total generation from renewables increased by 33% between 2010 and 2011. Wind generation saw the largest increases with offshore wind up 68% and onshore wind up 45%, while hydro generation increased by 56%. The UK Government energy policy is based on the expectation in its latest Energy Market Reform proposal that the total contribution from renewable energy sources should rise to 30% of total energy consumption by 2020. In addition, the Scottish Executive has a target of generating as much as 50% of Scotland's electricity needs from renewable energy by 2015. While the bulk of renewable energy will come from wind sources, biomass and marine energy are also expected to make significant contributions to the generation of renewable energy.
In the early 2000s, concerns grew over the prospect of an 'energy gap' in UK generating capacity. This forecast is also based on the expectation that a number of coal-fired power stations will close as a result of their inability to meet the clean air requirements set out in the European Large Combustion Plant Directive. In addition, there are plans to close the UK's remaining Magnox nuclear stations by 2015. The oldest AGR nuclear power station has had its life extended by ten years, and it is likely that this will also happen with many of the others, thus narrowing the potential gap suggested by the current closure dates of between 2014 and 2023 for the AGR power stations. Without action to fill this gap, it is forecast that there will be a 20% shortfall in electricity generation capacity by 2015. Due to the limitations of wind power, significantly more power must be generated over the next few decades to meet the UK’s low carbon energy challenge. One third of that increased generating capacity needs to be agreed upon and built over the next 15 years. Plans to radically overhaul the UK's energy system were announced in November 2009. The plans include ten possible sites for new nuclear power stations, and new rules were introduced for planning decisions on energy infrastructure and making better use of clean coal technology.
To achieve this, six draft National Policy Statements (NPS) have been published to guide planning decisions on energy infrastructure. The NPS will remove unnecessary planning delays facing large energy project proposals. One of the six NPS covers the energy system as a whole, and the others address the following areas:
With immediate effect, all new coal plants will have to show that they have the full CCS chain (capture, transport and storage of CO2) before being granted planning permission. Existing power stations that have already started to incorporate CCS technology in some processes are expected to use it for all processes in their energy generation by 2025.