Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Let's make clean energy cheap

WHICHEVER country has the cheapest energy will get the best jobs and at the moment that is the United States as a result of its shale oil and gas revolution.

This has slashed energy bills, will help make the US energy independent, and has created one million new jobs with a further two million expected.

In a recent World Energy Outlook, the International Energy Agency warned that Europe could lose a third of its global share of exports from energy intensive industries because of price disparities between it and the US.

This is particularly relevant to the North East, which is the only net exporter in the UK, with many of these goods made by the energy-intensive process industries on Teesside.

But many of these companies – representing 30% of the region's industrial base – face energy price rises of up to 30% by 2020 and 50% by 2030, as a result of the UK’s green policies.

There are also concerns over the security of the UK’s energy supplies with businesses facing potential blackouts as early as this winter, due to the loss of significant quantities of baseload, fossil fuel power in place of intermittent renewables.

Steve Holliday, the chief executive of the National Grid, last week warned the UK will have to tailor its energy use to the weather.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph he said that historically, energy users had "expectations that the supply will always be there" to meet maximum demand.
But "with renewables in the world in which we are moving towards" this would no longer be the case as it would make more sense to shift energy demand to times when the wind blows or the sun shines.
"We have to get used to a world in which when power is cheap we use it, when power is expensive we find a way of not using it," he said.

This seems like a backward step in an advanced economy and is one of the reasons why we need to get on fracking for shale gas. The Royal Society, British Geological Survey, WaterUK and Public Health England all says it’s safe.

Gas has 50% fewer carbon emissions than coal and can act as a low carbon bridge to a less carbon intensive future, alongside nuclear power, energy from waste and renewables, in particular solar.

Last month two close environmental and liberal allies of President Obama, former senators Tim Wirth and Tom Daschle, called for the whole treaty framework of mandatory emissions limits to be scrapped in favour of a greater focus on energy innovation and adaption.

This makes sense. We have to find a way to replace dirty energy technologies with cleaner ones, and develop low carbon technologies that can broadly scale without the need of costly subsidies.

We will have to eventually wean ourselves off fossil fuels but the top down policies we currently have are out of date.

They were drafted when we thought we had reached peak oil, but that has now been overtaken by the shale revolution and we need to enter a new era of climate pragmatism.

Peter McCusker, Energy Writer

Follow Peter McCusker on Twitter @mccusker60

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