There are claims that the UK could be starved of energy, or more specifically gas, during cold spells post-Brexit. But is this a real possibility, or just more fear mongering?
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The BBC reports that the UK would be vulnerable to gas supply shortages as well as price increases post-Brexit and said that the head of the European industry body GasNaturally, Marco Alvera, told it that "…EU nations could restrict gas exports to the UK during winter cold snaps in order to prioritise their own citizens."
The report goes on to say that 39% of the electricity generated in the UK last year came from gas and that we import nearly half the gas we use via pipelines from Europe.
The BBC quotes Mr Alvera as saying:
"I would make [energy security] a high priority point in the discussions, and I haven't seen it be like that."
As well as reporting that:
"He added that EU nations would also theoretically have the ability to impose tariffs on their gas and electricity exports to the UK post-Brexit." Tariffs …. on exports ….. hmmmm ….. presumably the exporter from the EU would pay it to Brussels, in the hope that the UK consumer will pay it as the final purchaser. What if another supplier stepped in via Liquified Natural Gas, or LNG, from another country like say, the USA?
Now that the US has embraced fracking they have gas to spare and are already exporting the stuff into Europe.
And what if the UK decides that fracking is the way ahead too?
Mr Alvera also told the BBC that the UK has become 'overly dependant', on imported natural gas, as our own North Sea gas supplies dwindled and we shut down our gas storage facilities.
And Mr Alvera also said:
"We see one of the consequences of global warming is more extreme temperatures in the summer and in the winter.
"In the week when we had the 'Beast from the East' very cold spell coming, the system was already under a lot of strain, and the UK was taking a lot of gas from Europe that was stored in Europe."
Now, back in 2018, while we were still firmly in the EU, the Guardian reported that the UK would not have enough gas to meet demand during this 'Beast from the East' period.
But the interruptions were more likely to have been felt by industrial users such as car manufacturers because, as the Guardian said, they have "supply contracts which can be interrupted in return for lower prices" and domestic gas suppliers had already secured their supplies.
And it also quotes an energy analyst at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, Jonathan Marshall, saying:
"The UK is largely isolated in its dependency on gas, with a huge over-reliance in the power and heating sectors. Experts have long warned about putting too many eggs in the same basket, with events such as today the undesirable outcome."
So, not so much about Brexit and Project Fear then, as a lack of sensible long term UK energy security planning.
Also, when you look into UK gas storage, Ofgem reported on the 31st of August last year, that we have seven sites such as those in Hatfield Moor and Humbly Grove where gas is piped into old gas fields for storage to be drawn out and used during cold spells.
And there are two more storage areas due to be brought on line at the end of this year.
But when looking at the overall figures it does look to be woefully inadequate, although I admit to being no expert here.
Now, as I said at the start, Mr Alvera is the head of GasNaturally, which it says is a "…partnership of six associations that together represent the whole European gas value chain."
So it surprised me that there was no mention of a report published by Cambridge Economic Policy Associates Ltd for the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy in March 2017, where the main finding was that:
"The GB system is resilient to almost all significant individual shocks under normal demand conditions."
And where there are extreme shocks to the Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) supplies or to supplies from Russia, GB demand can be met as long as GB consumers are willing to pay for it.
And when the report talked about extreme, it was talking about periods of 12 months, not just a few days.
And this report, having been authored in 2017 must have had Brexit in mind.
Anyway, for me, the overall impression I got from these reports is that, Brexit or not, our energy security needs as a country have been overlooked somewhat.
The UK is an island nation and should therefore always work to be as self-sufficient in as many areas of the economy as possible.
And the best route forward in energy, must be to increase our own nuclear power capacity so as to give us a smooth and uninterrupted supply of electricity while freeing up gas supplies for domestic heating and industry, something I might talk about in a future video.