The UK Government has proposed to expand gas power capacity to ensure a reliable energy supply when weather does not power up renewables.

The initiative is part of the second consultation on the review of electricity market arrangements, in which the energy secretary outlined the plan to enhance gas power capacity and support the country’s transition to net-zero emissions.

The strategy includes updating existing legislation to ensure new gas plants are net-zero ready and can later be converted to low-carbon alternatives including carbon capture and hydrogen running.

As the UK advances in deploying low-carbon technologies, its gas power plants are expected to operate less frequently, aligning with the broader government objective to achieve net zero while minimising costs for consumers.

Renewable energy sources are set to grow, but their intermittent nature necessitates a reliable backup. Flexible power generation from gas plants will act as a safeguard, maintaining a secure and stable electricity supply.

Energy Security Secretary Claire Coutinho is expected to state: “There are no two ways about it. Without gas backing up renewables, we face the genuine prospect of blackouts. Other countries in recent years have been so threatened by supply constraints that they have been forced back to coal.

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“There are no easy solutions in energy, only trade-offs. If countries are forced to choose between clean energy and keeping citizens safe and warm – they will choose to keep the lights on.

“We will not let ourselves be put in that position, and so, as we continue to move towards clean energy, we must be realistic.”

The consultation also proposes regional electricity pricing to reflect the geographic distribution of energy production and demand.

Electricity prices are presently determined nationally. Under the zonal market proposal, users would pay varied rates based on their location, with those close to power generators paying less, Reuters has reported.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stated: “Our record on net zero speaks for itself – the latest stats show that we are already halfway there, with greenhouse gas emissions 50% lower than in 1990.

“But we need to reach our 2035 goals in a sustainable way that doesn’t leave people without energy on a cloudy, windless day.”

The UK Government recently announced a budget exceeding £1bn ($1.28bn) for the contracts for difference (CfD) allocation round 6 for renewable energy projects.

This is the largest budget allocation for a single CfD auction to date, and aims to support a range of renewable energy technologies.