'STOP relying on coal imports and back UK suppliers and jobs', urged a North-East coal and wind farm developer, as an alarming new report attacked Government energy policy.

The UK faces an electricity supply gap of up to 55 per cent by 2025 because of the closure of coal and nuclear plants, the government is being warned.

Plans to plug the gap by building combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) plants are "unrealistic", according to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

The institution said the UK does not have the resources or the skilled workers to build the number of power stations needed.

Mark Dowdall at The Banks Group, based at Meadowfield, near Durham City, agrees. "Much of Britain’s energy generating infrastructure is ageing and outdated, and significant new investment is clearly required to provide the long-term secure, sustainable and cost effective energy that the country requires," he said, adding: "To ensure a stable energy market, generators need to be able to invest for the long term, but wholesale power prices today do not support investment at scale in any kind of new generation, and from gas to nuclear to clean coal and renewables, all new generation requires support to be built.

"We believe the government needs to urgently reconsider its policies on coal and CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage), onshore wind and solar PV generation, all of which should have considerable roles to play in generating more of the energy that we all use, especially with technological advances making them ever more competitive.

"What is needed now is a carefully-designed diversified energy mix which makes best use of the indigenous sources of energy available to us, which makes the unnecessary and arbitrary limits placed by the UK Government on the use of coal and the deployment of onshore wind and solar PV, which are proven, flexible and cost-effective means of energy generation, ever more mystifying."

A Department of Energy and Climate Change spokesman defended its policy, saying: "We are the first country to propose an end date to using unabated coal and we will do so in a way that maintains energy security, which comes first.

"New gas power stations are being built and we are investing in cleaner energy, such as nuclear and shale gas, to ensure hardworking families and businesses have secure, affordable energy supplies they can rely on now and in the future."

Mr Dowdall added: "Coal remains a central part of the UK's current energy mix, with around 30 per cent of the electricity that we all use to power our homes, businesses, schools and hospitals being produced through coal, but over 85 per cent of this coal coming from overseas.

"Indigenous low cost renewables such as onshore wind, solar PV and CCS (carbon capture and storage) equipped coal generation should play an important role in the UK's strategy of achieving a secure, affordable and sustainable energy mix. It makes no sense to commit to prematurely taking existing coal fired generation off-line and preventing the development of further onshore wind without the certainty that new generation is in place.

"It makes far greater sense to support UK jobs, to deliver local environmental and conservation enhancements and to provide a secure domestic supply of energy by mining and using our own indigenous coal reserves and natural wind resource through carefully-planned and sensitively operated schemes such as those we run, instead of relying on imports of coal and gas from potentially-unstable overseas markets."