The UK economy is suffering from the deepest recession it’s ever experienced. Energy Helpline’s infographic (below) shows how the recession and lack of productivity has affected the UK’s importing and exporting of energy.
In terms of energy importing, there are three countries that are leading. Russia is the largest energy exporter, exporting 579 million tonnes of energy a year. Comparatively with the UK every tonne the UK imports, Russia exports 8 million tonnes. Russia is the 3rd largest energy producers in the world. Whilst Russia should be profiting from these large energy exports, the price of energy in Russia is still incredibly high and much of the country don’t see the positive effects of the great demand for energy. China is the number one for largest energy producers and is 2nd for largest energy in importer, importing 336 million tonnes a year. China’s thirst for energy has driven up energy prices all over the world but recently China’s energy consumption has softened as they put more effort into developing nuclear and renewable energy. Compare China’s consumption with the UK and China exports 17 million tonnes of energy for every 1 million the UK imports.
Click on infographic to expand it.
Rather than being a net energy exporter, then UK is now a large importer. In 2011 the net amount of energy importing into the UK came to the equivalent of 78.1 million tonnes of oil. The UK imports from countries such as Russia, USA, Norway, and Columbia for gas, petroleum and coal. The import rate in the UK is increasing rapidly and the last time the import rate was this high was 1976. As of 2011 the UK imported 37% of its energy and only produced 63% for other countries.
The Problem with Being an Energy Importer
The danger of being an importer is relying on other countries ability to produce energy in line with your demand for it. If the UK is a large importer of energy and our consumption becomes to great it will mean an energy deficit leading to a UK energy crisis. The UK has recognised this issue and invested £300bn in the continental shelf in the last 4 decades, to bolster the UK’s exporting importance.
In a recent report by Ofgem the UK could be out of energy by 2015 which could lead to widespread blackouts and that the UK would be totally dependent on outside energy sources. This would lead to a rise in price for energy in the UK affecting an already economically unstable country. Audrey Gallacher, director of energy at Consumer Focus expressed concern about the threat of rising prices.
"While there is enough generation capacity to mean that widespread power-cuts are still unlikely, narrower margins mean the risks of outages are higher and scarcity of energy could also feed into possible price rises in future," he said.
"Consumers need protection from price spikes as well as power cuts."
The issue is that North Sea Oil & Gas is running out, 40 million tonnes of oil equivalent has been extracted from the North Sea and an estimated 24 million tonnes of oil is left. This amounts to £1.5 trillion. 86 new oil fields to mine are to begin work in 2016 and there have been major investments in new fields into the source of energy. The Skarfjell discovery, which was an untapped reserve which was found, strengthened the energy industry but North Sea Oil & Gas will eventually run out.
Green Energy The Key to The UK Become Energy Independent
So what should the UK do to become a powerful energy exporter again? Green power has been touted as the answer to the energy deficit. With parliament signing the Climate Change Act which brings into law the pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050, it seems that green power is becoming a serious player in the energy game. There are many different ways energy can be harnessed in a green fashion, this includes tidal stream, tidal range and wave power coupled with offshore wind farms.
It’s argued (1) that the UK is grabbing this opportunity to become a leader in renewable energy and this could be a chance to create jobs for British citizens. By investing in the renewable sector, the UK could create thousands of jobs for out of work people and they could stand alone from the rest of the world by having independent energy.
If the UK harnessed just 30% of these renewable resources then by 2050 the total amount of offshore green energy would equal the total amount of North Sea energy. Making it equivalent to oil. This would mean the UK could be energy independent from the rest of the world and a net energy exporter once again.