The announcement by Ed Miliband that the Department of Energy and Climate Change will delay any announcement on the future of Kingsnorth is most regrettable, argues Tony Lodge, author of Step off the Gas: why over-dependence on gas is bad for the UK.
New research published in this report shows that gas-fired electricity will account for 70% of all the UK’s conventional generating capacity by 2020. This over-reliance on one fuel will be undesirable. Government must act now to end this dangerous dependency.
Influential energy strategist Tony Lodge demonstrates the inherent high risks involved in relying on gas as the predominant fuel source:
- North Sea gas is running out. Gas imports have risen from just 2% of UK demand in 2003/04 to over 50% this year. By 2020, 80% to 90% of the gas needed will have to be imported.
- Gas imports are unreliable. 56% of the world’s reserves are located in three countries: Qatar, Russia and Iran. Transporting liquefied gas from Qatar is inherently risky (because of the threats of piracy and regional turmoil) while recent history suggests that neither Russia nor Iran can be considered as reliable trading partners.
- Gas is expensive. Government estimates show that electricity from gas-fired stations costs 45% more than that from coal-fired power stations. UK electricity is already more expensive than that of our neighbours (UK households pay an average of £100 a year more than those in France for electricity); and the increasing reliance on gas has helped push more than 5 million families into fuel poverty. It is also imposing greater costs on UK industry at a time when this can be least afforded.
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
In the next six years, 18 GW of coal, nuclear and oil power stations will be decommissioned (out of an installed generating capacity of 77GW). 17 GW of combined cycle gas turbine stations are currently being built and will come on stream by 2012 (gas stations with a further 4 GW are awaiting approval).
The recent conversion of the Government to supporting new nuclear power stations is welcome. However it is too late to prevent the UK’s over-dependence on gas. The first new nuclear power station will not be operating before 2018. Hence the ever-increasing reliance on gas-fired power stations will continue unless the Government changes its policy.
To reduce dependency on gas, the Government should:
- extend the lives of the UK’s existing nuclear and coal stations. It should therefore seek an urgent derogation from new EU emissions rules which will, without a derogation, mean that Britain’s older coal and oil stations close by 2015.
- grant approval to the numerous clean coal projects awaiting approval around the UK. They should be encouraged and supported. Kingsnorth in particular represents an opportunity for the UK to lead with clean coal technology and carbon capture and storage (CCS).In this light, the continuing delay in granting approval to Kingsnorth is particularly regrettable.
Tony Lodge comments:
“Both the Labour Government and the Conservative Opposition need to show the political will to put forward clear policies to guarantee energy security in the future. the price of continuing the obfuscation of today – the undeclared policy of both parties – will be higher prices and possible supply interruptions in the future.”
In this paper, political/energy analyst and CPS Research Fellow Tony Lodge, explores the need to diversify away from the UKs over-dependence on gas.
- The Times: Britain’s rivers called on to provide renewable energy
- The Evening Standard: Clouds on the horizon in our ‘dash for gas’
- Step off the Gas: why over-dependence on gas is bad for the UK by Tony Lodge is published today Wednesday 11 March 2009.
- Tony Lodge is a political and energy analyst who comments frequently in the international, national and regional media on the energy crisis and on the energy choices facing the UK. His publications include Electrifying Britain – Forward with Coal, Gas or Nuclear? (Economic Research Council, 2005), Clean Coal – A Clean, Secure and Affordable Alternative (Centre for Policy Studies, 2007), All Hot Air – Labour’s Failed Strategy on Fuel Poverty (The Bow Group, 2008) and Wind Chill: why wind energy will not fill the UK’s energy gap (CPS, 2008). He is frequently invited to comment on energy issues in the national and regional media.