Just what is going on with the UK energy policy?

Confusion reigns in the corridors of power with contradiction at every turn on the UK’s energy needs. Recent reports on the UK’s future in clean energy and climate change have flagged the critical need to prioritise low-carbon energy generation and the climate change obligations that the UK must meet by 2030.

Indeed, the report where fracking is discussed briefly mentions it in a minimised capacity, the BEIS released their Gas Security and Supply report, with a strategic analysis on outline energy projections for the coming years in which the Government indicated that shale gas is not needed for energy security and did not include it as a contribution to energy production figures for the UK.

Clean Growth Strategy was also released, with positive talk from the UK government of a low-carbon future for the UK, substituting natural gas with low-carbon gases like biogas and hydrogen. Theresa May stated in the report: “Clean growth is not an option, but a duty we owe to the next generation, and economic growth has to go hand-in-hand with greater protection for our forests and beaches, clean air and places of outstanding natural beauty. ”

That all sounds very encouraging… doesn’t it?

But this Government is still talking up new fracking proposals, as confirmed by Theresa May at Prime Minister’s Questions in October.

Not only would these proposals commit the UK to fossil fuels for decades to come, jeopardising our legally binding commitments to the Paris accord, but they also drive drilling rigs through local democracy. Communities will lose their right to say no to vast areas of the UK being turned into an industrialised gas field – an attack on local democracy that will bring fracking by dictatorship. Bringing it within permitted development would mean no planning application, no environmental impact assessment in most cases and no voice for local people.

Opinion polling in the UK has consistently shown a majority opposed to fracking. The most recent Government poll shows a record low of just 13 per cent of people in favour of fracking. Over 99 per cent of those responding to the Scottish Government’s consultation were opposed to fracking. This should give the UK government pause for thought, particularly in light of the 2017 Conservative manifesto commitment to develop the shale industry only “if we maintain public confidence in the process”.

Removing local scrutiny would run counter to the Government’s stated commitment to localism, as the BEIS Secretary Greg Clark MP told local councils when he was Communities Secretary: “Don’t let yourself, any longer, be ruled by someone else.” But, by taking away the power of local councils to decide, this is precisely what the Government will be doing.

Liberal Democrats don’t want to be the ‘dirty man of Europe’; it’s time to drop this obsession with fracking for a fossil fuel future and unite behind ‘A Vision for Britain – clean, green and carbon free.’ Join us at Green Lib Dems and help us contribute to the Liberal Democrats vision for the future.

* Steve Mason joined the Liberal Democrats after the May 2015 General Election and is active in Thirsk and Malton local party.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • “Opinion polling in the UK has consistently shown a majority opposed to fracking. ”

    Tell them without fracking there will be no NHS or old age pensions.
    Then ask them again.
    A bankrupt country needs all the help it can get.

  • @Palehorse – You are sort of right, fracking (in the UK) is more about maintaining the illusion of economic growth and tax revenues than energy self-sufficiency.

  • Simon McGrath 14th Nov '17 - 4:52pm

    Fracking creates jobs and tax revenue and saves foreign exchange. We will be using gas for many years – why not increase energy security by using our own?
    There is no peer reviewed science that says properly regulated fracking isnt safe – see the Royal Society study on the topic

  • Nonconformistradical 14th Nov '17 - 5:41pm

    @Simon McGrath
    “There is no peer reviewed science that says properly regulated fracking isnt safe”

    So you’ve looked absolutely everywhere among peer reviewed literature have you..?

    What might reasonably concern people is if fracking was in use and was not being regulated properly…

  • @Simon McGrath – The fossil fuel reserves that fracking will access currently total a few months (ie. under two years) of total UK consumption. Whilst we can make allowance for improved recovery rates etc. it is clear were are not sitting on another North Sea – so not really a meaningful contribution to our energy security.

  • Steve Mason 14th Nov '17 - 9:14pm

    From Dukes report…
    Where’s the Russian gas?

    All data in GWh.
    (1bcf= 300GWh)

    Imports 2016

    by pipelines from:
    Belgium (2) 15,414
    The Netherlands (3) 47,444
    Norway (4) 347,005
    Liquefied Natural Gas (5) 122,310
    of which: – – – – –

    Algeria 4,776
    Belgium 1,117
    Egypt 120
    Nigeria 434
    Norway 2,649
    Qatar 112,012
    Trinidad & Tobago 1,202
    USA – – – – –
    Yemen – – – – –

    Total Imports 532,173

    Exports to:

    Belgium (2) 67,189
    The Netherlands (6) 18,302
    Norway (7) 1
    Republic of Ireland (8) 21,943
    Isle of Man (9) 1,349
    Liquefied Natural Gas (10) 5,511

    Total Exports 114,294

    Net Imports (11) 417,879

    OK. So let’s stop selling gas to Belgium for a start that over 10% reduction of demand, and we release the others into the free market too, that 20% off demand.

    Then we look at the North sea ‘Vulcan’ 303bcf= 90, 000, another 20%

    Culzean gas field is expected to have a peak production rate of 400 to 500 million standard cubic feet per day (MMSCFD) =150bcf, that’s another 10% of Imports.

    So I’ve reduced gas Imports by 50% in five minutes, imagine if I really tried!!

  • Well said, Keith. Fortunately north of the border, it looks like Scotland will be able to generate the equivalent of 100 per cent of Scotland’s gross annual electricity consumption by 2020. This year, over a six day period, there was a renewable energy record as wind power provided equivalent of over 118% of nation’s electricity – and this isn’t counting existing hydro power.

  • Britain as a population of 60 million. There is little sign so far that green energy can come close to providing the power needed. And certainly not in a cold winter. Plus we already pay through the nose and a national energy policy is completely at odds with the notion of a competitive market.
    I just don’t understand how you can square all the contradictions without causing hardship to more people or without it just being a load of platitudes with essentially ineffectual half measures. I find the whole subject utterly depressing.

  • The schizophrenic nature which this article identifies, of ‘scraping the barrel’ for the last dregs of fossil fuel by fracking, whilst pretending to go green, is the dilemma we as a society refuse to face.

    There is no known and accessible energy source, with the same power per volume density as fossil fuel, and in particular the ubiquitous liquid usefulness of crude oil.
    If you overlay two graphs ranging the last 2000 years, depicting human population levels and the discovery and commercialization of fossil fuels use, you will see two exponential (hockey stick), expansions of industrial fossil fuel use and a simultaneous, population rise from under 1 billion to 7 billion, starting from about the year 1750 to the present day.
    It’s not a coincidence.

    The notion that we, as a species, can survive and thrive without fossil fuels is a delusion of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ proportions. It’s simply not physically possible to manage a clean environment by going carbon free, by relying on intermittent renewables, and realistically expect to maintain a population of 7+ billion people, unless [globally], we are willing to build a new nuclear power plant roughly every 3 weeks or so into the foreseeable future.

    There is no other obvious reason why a government would ‘wind-up’ its own (voter) populace, by promoting fracking against the myriad of civil ‘green’, protestations, if fossil fuel, wasn’t absolutely necessary to ‘keep the plates spinning’.

  • Sean Hyland 15th Nov '17 - 2:50pm

    The discussion on Energy always seems to focus solely on production. Whatever your views on fracking,renewables, nuclear, of fossils we don’t have joined up thinking on usage.
    We could reduce our reliance on any fuel source with a commitment to measures to save energy. We could look at how we build/design new homes, extend the schemes to insulate and provide energy efficient boilers in existing housing stock, research into industrial processes to reduce energy demands,set and invest in research into new technologies that will continue to reduce future energy demand. The pay off apart from reducing energy demand is in creating employment and sustainable boosts to the economy.

  • The debate about fracking would be more productive without all the green alarmism.

    I am quite neutral about fracking. I think it should be a local decision. The footprint is very small and can easily be out of sight. The affect on water supplies is alarmism, the depths involved are totally different. The pollution claims and flames coming out of taps is garbage.

    The grid cannot function with just renewables. That is a fact. Those who do not accept that are living in fantasy land. Gas is the best clean fuel that we have, so it makes sense to use our own to keep people out of fuel poverty, ensure security of supply and save our industries.

  • Using hydrogen to replace methane is just a joke that proves government is scientifically illiterate. Hydrogen has the smallest molecule known, the gas pipes of our homes and national grid are not entirely impervious to the gas. It is highly flammable and at certain ratios with oxygen the reaction rate becomes infinite, resulting in spontaneous explosion.

    Yes, great idea.

  • William Fowler 16th Nov '17 - 11:37am

    I want to see solar power move to no government incentives and remove lots of the expense of installation and any import/local taxes… but it will only work if you force energy companies to install smart meters that run backwards when excess power is generated, making the grid one large battery for residential users (the power will be gobbled up in the daytime by industry but the power companies won’t make much profit out of solar as the full amount generated will be credited to the account of residential users).

    That means the excess power generated in the summer can then be used in the winter, in eco houses this would mean no electric or gas bills as they could be heated by air source heating.

    Technically, not a problem as it already happens in USA and Canada.

  • ” remove lots of the expense of installation ”
    Well that would be nice but they are expensive to start with. It might be possible with a bit of modularisation but the inverters aren’t cheap either. We have a 4kw set on our roof and try to use the power well. 4kw is a lot of power (when the sun shines).
    I’m sorry to admit we have just had our air source heat pump removed and replaced with gas. It was very efficient but after a lot of persevering my view is that they only work down to about zero. After that the COP has dropped so low that you are on resistance anyway. I know they are popular in continental europe but I have the feeling that they have very cold dry air winters and we have slightly cold but wet air winters. Certainly my outdoor box was a block of ice for days on end and it spent huge amounts of energy on defrost cycles.
    So we were cold on days below about minus 2 or 3.
    Worse still they are rare and haven’t taken off so there are very few (and I mean very few and far between) companies capable of maintaining or repairing them and repair bills can be huge. Our neighbours in a house also built by the same developers had a £2,500 bill when their compressor failed. You can get two gas boilers for that.
    So ASHPs are not perfect.

  • Peter Hirst 17th Nov '17 - 5:19pm

    Wearing an extra layer of clothing is the right way to at, especially at this time of the year. The enclosed air is an excellent insulation. Space heating is more a cultural than an essential need.

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