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Plugging the energy gap

Britain must start work on about 30 new power stations to stop the lights going out in 2025. Private companies now take the investment decisions, but in a context of technical, regulatory and environmental uncertainty. Can government help?

By Richard Barry   November 2005

Within its five-year life span, this government is going to have to make sure that some difficult and potentially unpopular long-term infrastructure decisions are made.

The trickiest of these relate to power generation. In the muscular days of the Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB), the minister of power (remember Manny Shinwell?) could instruct the board to do what he wanted. That all changed with privatisation in 1989-90. The CEGB vanished, and the role of government changed to that of facilitator and regulator. Yet were the lights went out, the government would be blamed, even though it can no longer order…

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