Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Britain Nearing End of Natural Gas Self Sufficiency

With Britain reliant on diminishing natural gas supplies and renewable energy sources only expected to shoulder a small percentage of the energy demand, an energy crisis is imminent,

The future of Britain’s natural gas supplies and estimated contribution of renewable energy as Britain closes down coal and nuclear plants is a topic worthy of extensive discussion. The UK is currently facing uncertainty about its future energy supplies with the possibility of a potentially grave energy crisis and the potential danger should not be underestimated.

More than a third of the country’s aging base load coal-fired and nuclear generating capacity is set to be decommissioned in the next fifteen to twenty years. Up till now, the government has claimed that this will be replaced with natural gas and renewable energy, plus imports of electricity from France, depending on the market. The government has now changed its tune and opted for nuclear power. With a discredited prime minister on his way out and bitter infighting about the succession paralysing decision making, who knows what will happen?

Although Britain is apparently to be dependent on natural gas, it is reaching the end of self-sufficiency in gas and is now a net importer. The industry is investing heavily in new pipelines to import gas from Norway and the Netherlands in addition to Russian piped gas, with new storage facilities for piped gas, and LNG terminals being built.

In renewable energy, hydropower contributes less than 5% of generating capacity in Britain and the principal renewable energy will be wind power. But wind cannot provide base load power because it is intermittent and its capacity credit will be small, at penetration currently being proposed, perhaps 2,000-3,000 MW out of the 30,000 MW which will be required to keep the nation’s lights on.

Gas prices are spiralling. The largest exporter, Russia, owns a quarter of the world’s gas. Russia is flexing its muscles ominously and is talking of a gas version of OPEC. How costly and how secure gas will be are looming questions.



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