Blackout Britain warning as Government predicts severe power shortages within a year

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Britain faces the first widespread power blackouts since the 1970s because of looming energy shortages, Government documents reveal.

For the first time, ministers are expecting that the supply of electricity will fail to meet demand at peak times.

The Government is forecasting that by 2017 there will be power cuts of around 3,000 megawatt hours per year - the equivalent of the whole of Nottingham being without electricity for a day.

Official papers show that consumers will be hit by an 'energy gap' when a number of existing power stations are shut down.

Nine oil and coal-fired power plants are to close by 2015 because of an EU directive designed to limit pollution and associated acid rain. At the same time, four ageing nuclear power plants will be shut.

In all, experts say, the decommissioning of power stations will see 37 per cent of the UK's generation capacity disappear by 2015.

Ministers have recently embraced new nuclear power plants as a way of closing the gap, but replacements will not be ready in time.

There are also fears of huge electricity and gas price rises as Britain is held to ransom by such foreign energy producers as Russia. Experts have been warning for years that Britain is running out of power, with some predicting the blackouts could be serious enough to spark civil disorder.

The last time there were widespread power cuts was during the miners' strikes in the 1970s.

The expected gap of 3,000 megawatt hours a year could mean an hour-long power cut for 16million people simultaneously on a winter evening.

The forecast is buried in an annexe to the Government's Low Carbon Transition Plan, which sets out how the UK will meet a pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 34 per cent on 1990 levels by 2020.

Available only on the internet, the annexe projects the shortfall between generating output and consumer demand between now and 2030.

Currently this is close to zero, but the chart shows that by 2025 the expected energy gap will be more than 7,000 megawatt hours per year - equivalent to an hour-long power cut for half of Britain.

Tory energy and climate change spokesman Greg Clark said: 'Britain faces blackouts because the Government has put its head in the sand about Britain's energy policy for a decade. continues here

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