Is Britain Heading for Another Energy Crisis?

A new report commissioned by environmental group ‘Friends of the Earth' warns that the UK could be heading for an uncertain energy future, thanks to gaps in environmental policy. 

Despite encouraging results in Wales and a bright commercial energy structure in place in Scotland, fear is now rising over the barriers that are limiting investment in renewable energy. Mike Bradshaw, author of the report, has warned the Coalition Government that it must act now, or see it's plans to decarbonise the economy firmly derailed.

"A perfect storm is brewing, with major uncertainty around all the elements of current UK energy policy," Bradshaw said.

"This could delay the low-carbon transition and lead to a continued reliance on fossil fuels – specifically gas, most of which will have been imported," he said.

As natural gas production from the North Sea fields fell, Britain quietly became dependent on imported gas – becoming a net importer for the first time last year after decades of virtual self-sufficiency.

The energy-rich Middle East has become a hub for sea-tankers of liquid natural gas (LNG), and the region has become a crutch that Bradshaw says the UK has been leaning on for too long.

The evidence is seemingly self sufficient, as the UK could find itself dragged into the numerous geopolitical confrontations in the region, for the sake of LNG.

"Including the shutting of the Straits of Hormuz limiting LNG exports from Qatar – the main source of UK LNG imports – which could trigger military intervention," he said.

"Coming together these could result into an ever greater reliance of gas, at a time when its price is likely to increase because of growing demand from countries including China and India," Bradshaw said in a report called "Time to take our foot off the gas?"

The report's underlying message is one of energy security; that if the UK truly wants to be self-sufficient, it must move away from importing – particularly where volatile conflicts could destabilise an energy economy.

Instead, home-grown energy systems with the majority of electricity from renewable sources involves the lowest risk of energy security problems would be the ‘ideal'.

We find it hard to disagree with the idea of an inclusive, home-grown energy economy – after all we wouldn't want to see business gas or electricity here in the UK driven because of economic problems in another country.

But what do you think? Could we decarbonise the UK quickly enough? Or is the coalition's faith in nuclear power enough to stop us importing LNG?

4th July, 2012

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