Why the UK is Using Less Energy, but Importing More, and Why It Matters
Comment of the Day

August 22 2016

Commentary by David Fuller

Why the UK is Using Less Energy, but Importing More, and Why It Matters

The UK is in the midst of an energy revolution. Since the late 1990s the Government has committed to using cleaner energy, and using less of it.

Billions of pounds have been invested in renewable energy sources that generate electricity from the wind, waves and plant waste.

At the same time the UK has managed to cut its energy use by almost a fifth as households and businesses have steadily replaced old, inefficient appliances and machinery with products that use far less energy to run. Energy demand has also fallen due to the decline of the UK’s energy-intensive industries, such manufacturing and steel-making.

But Government data shows that the UK’s reliance on energy imports is at its highest since the energy crisis of the late 1970s, raising serious questions over where the UK sources its energy and what a growing dependence on foreign energy means for bills and for security.

In a leaner, greener energy system, why is the UK more dependent on foreign energy sources than it has been in more than 30 years?

David Fuller's view

Here is a PDF of The Telegraph's article.

The short answer is that the UK has largely run out of commercially viable North Sea oil at today’s prices.  It has also made a commendable push into renewables while cutting back on the use of coal.  However, this has been an expensive policy and the country faces an increasing risk of energy shortages. 

Fortunately, there is a medium-term solution to this problem if the government moves quickly.

I am certainly not suggesting that we agree to the alarmingly costly Hinkley Point nuclear project – see Ambrose Evans-Pritchard’s article posted on Thursday 18th August.  

The best medium-term solution is to move rapidly ahead with fracking, which would produce considerably more oil and gas than the North Sea.  The public living in the region of drilling sites needs to be on side and the UK government has already agreed to a sensible solution: pay those people a sufficient fixed amount so that they will feel fortunate to live near fracking sites.  That is the US solution and it works very well, especially now that fracking technology has improved considerably in the last few years, reducing risks and inconveniences. 


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