UK energy self sufficiency is coming to an end and we are all facing a future where the health and security of the British economy is dependent on factors which Britain cannot control. For thirty years the North Sea kept this country going but successive governments have failed to prepare for the future. In 1990 just half of one percent of Britain’s electricity came from gas fuelled power stations, now it is 40% and Britain is facing a severe energy shortfall. By 2020 it has been estimated 80% of our gas will be coming from countries like Russia.
Nuclear power stations cannot be built in time to make up the energy gap and in fact the crumbling state of existing nuclear plants means even maintaining current nuclear energy levels is going to be a major challenge. Coal-fired power stations would be a logical step, after all we have 100’s of years of coal still in the ground under the UK, but under EU obligations Britain has committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent by 2020. Coal therefore is not a politically acceptable option and despite the hype, wind, tidal and solar power are never going to be an adequate substitute.
Britain therefore will be heavily dependent on gas imports for the bulk of our power generation over the next couple of decades. Unfortunately the UK didn’t follow the example of many European countries and negotiate a long-term, fixed price supply of gas when prices were low. This leaves the UK relying on increasingly expensive open market sources. Sources, namely Russia, that are increasingly feeling their economic muscle!
It was reliance on Russia for 40 per cent of their gas that prevented European countries from making more than token protests over Russia’s invasion of Georgia last month. The Russian Prime Minister has made clear the Kremlin regards gas as a foreign policy tool. The Czech Republic, Ukraine and Estonia have all had their supplies choked during diplomatic spats with Moscow in the past three years.
So maybe we had better start voting for Russia in the Eurovision Song Contest. If we don’t we might end up sat in the cold and dark very soon!