Doug Parr: As the effect of the gas price shock starts to seep into the lives of ordinary people over the coming weeks and months – causing bills to rise, energy suppliers to go bust and supermarket shelves to empty – many will be left wondering how the government could have allowed this to happen. While it is true that a global surge in demand, coupled with geopolitical games and electricity supply issues in the UK have resulted in a squeeze on supply and subsequent price hike, this is only half the story. What ministers are failing to talk about as they reassure us that they do “not expect” supplies to run out this winter, is that it is not supply but the UK’s dependency on gas, and the failure of successive governments to wean us off the stuff years ago, that has left the UK dangerously exposed. The UK is one of the most gas-dependent countries in Europe – more than four-fifths of homes are still heated by it and almost half of our electricity is produced by burning it. Failed government policy over decades must shoulder much of the blame. The UK has the least energy-efficient housing stock in western Europe. Yet, we still don’t have a programme in place to insulate the millions of homes across the country that desperately need retrofitting. Insulating the UK housing stock is essential – it would reduce our dependence on gas, our exposure to such price shocks, slash emissions, reduce fuel poverty and, as Greenpeace UK’s recent report pointed out, create up to 138,000 new jobs and inject almost £10bn into the economy. The latter economic benefit would also require a mass rollout of heat pumps, which would further reduce our dependence on gas. But once again, poor policy decisions have gotten in the way. The UK is last when it comes to the sale per household of these sources of clean heating, behind Poland, Slovakia, Estonia and almost everyone else in Europe. New nuclear power cannot realistically help. Continual cost escalation and ever-increasing delivery timeframes have proven that it is not a viable alternative to fossil fuels. According to EDF the next UK plant that could be approved wouldn’t be up and running until 2034 and that’s assuming none of the usual long delays. We can’t wait 13 years or more for a magic nuclear bullet, even if the issues such as waste can be solved.
Independent 26th Sept 2021 read more »
Chris Goodall: The price of natural gas. What has caused the unprecedented spike in price? There’s surprisingly little commentary on this and I have not seen any article that notes that climate change is a big part of the reason. Raised levels of demand in Asia are partly due to uncharacteristically high temperatures raising air conditioning needs. This is also the case in the US. Drought in Brazil has meant its large hydroelectric power supplies have been cut to a fraction of normal levels. Brazil and Argentina together are now importing far more gas than China and taking about 1% of world production.
Carbon Commentary 26th Sept 2021 read more »
Ukraine’s pipeline chief has a stark winter warning for Britain: the geopolitics of Europe’s escalating gas war with Russia are intractable, and the coming supply crunch is likely to force brutal demand destruction in industry and homes. Yuriy Vitrenko, head of the Ukrainian energy and pipeline nexus Naftogaz, said that Western capitulation to Vladimir Putin’s gas blackmail would embolden Russia to launch a full-scale war on former Soviet territory. He warned that the Kremlin has taken advantage of an acute global gas shortage to weaponise flows to Europe. “Last year Gazprom booked 65bcm (billion cubic metres) of transit through Ukraine and this year it is only 40bcm. That’s why you are not getting your 25bcm of gas. It’s as easy as that,” he told The Daily Telegraph.
Telegraph 26th Sept 2021 read more »
Sam Laidlaw: The panacea is large scale and economically viable battery storage, enabling consumers across the country to depend on low carbon power as and when they need it. But while such technology exists on a small scale, large scale battery storage remains many years away. The uncomfortable truth is that even if today the UK had double its capacity of renewable energy, it would not have helped with the recent power crunch as the country was experiencing a period of low pressure weather, meaning that the wind simply wasn’t blowing. Returns on renewables investments – at least in the short term – are not sufficient on their own to finance the capital requirements of ever-larger low carbon projects. So investors need to recycle returns from existing production to capitalise renewable investment. We therefore need to get the balance right between existing energy projects and the move to renewables.
Telegraph 27th Sept 2021 read more »