Last time I discussed the first of the arguments for moving away from fossil fuel based generation, summarising that climate change, while certainly supported by a vast body of evidence, is not well communicated with the public and this has led to acceptance issues.
This time, we shall consider the second argument of those I identified in Part I, relating to security of supply.
Security of supply is a very serious sounding term, the likes of which is used by dour men in Westminster, wearing somber coloured suits, tutting quietly and beguiling the state of things. The term simply means ensuring that our electricity supply is not interrupted. That the lights stay on. Always.
Our economy depends on an uninterrupted supply of electricity. Our economy would not function without it. The stock market, the internet, motors… all run off this invisible supply, carried by transmission and distribution lines up and down the country. A blackout costs the economy billions. Worse still, it can cost lives.
If we accept the climate change argument, we already have a strong argument to move to sustainable, low carbon forms of energy. Even if we do not, there is a second valid concern regarding our dependency on other countries for the fuel we use. In the UK, we produce electricity with a lot of gas and coal. We have limited resources of gas and rely heavily on imports. Even though we do have coal reserves, we get a lot of it from other countries because it’s cheaper.
As fossil fuel resources become scarcer (or alternatively, more expensive to process, for example with shale gases), electricity prices will be forced to rise. Competition increases, and we will struggle to continue with a reliable supply of fuel. The Russia-Ukraine gas crisis of 2006 is a classic example of the danger of relying on one country for much of the fuel used in our power mix. If we rely on gas, and our gas is primarily piped from Russia, what happens if the supply is switched off? Security of supply. Tutting dour men in Westminster.
Food for thought, even for the climate skeptics. Next time: the final of the three main arguments; fossil fuel scarcity.