The disruption of green tech

Finally the report from The Committee of Climate Change on fracking has been released and produced some interesting results, raising concerns of the effect of fracking on the UKs climate change targets.

Shale gas production of the UK is not going to be the answer to our energy needs when it comes to meeting our climate change targets.  It is now obvious the UK has missed the boat on this ‘payday’ unless development is done on a huge scale, industrializing vast areas of rural England. The recommended regulations in the report to facilitate the size of expansion needed will never be in place.

The regulations needed to mitigate fugitive emissions are also not financially viable, making the cost of fracking even more expensive. There will always be methane leaks, the industry cannot stop it. The industry’s own figures of 2% to 5% expected leakage of methane from exploration, production and the supporting infrastructure needed, will put the UKs climate change targets in jeopardy.

The report states that ‘UK shale gas production must displace imported gas rather than increasing domestic consumption. Allowing unabated consumption above these levels would not be consistent with the decarbonisation required under the Climate Change Act.’  Each alternative has an almost identical climate change footprint and the imports are likely to be cheaper. If the government commits to use domestic fracked gas this will drive up energy prices and eventually hit the poorest families in the pocket!

The report does not consider the ongoing technical issues such waste disposal, water pollution, set back distances, community disruption, seismic concerns, industrialisation, etc. etc. etc! It is time for the government to stop bending over for the gas and oil lobbyists and realise they are backing the wrong horse. 

Since the Brexit vote the mood of the country has changed, both politically and economically. Fracking is again back on the agenda, but Fracking won’t fund the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ or the UK economy post Brexit as I’m sure the new government hopes.

The future of the UK’’s energy needs hangs in the balance; it is up to the current generation to put into place the plans for a low carbon future. Dragging the country kicking and screaming back to the fossil fuel age of the 80’s is not the answer.

But Brexit could provide a chance to lead the world.

We have the opportunity to lead the new ‘low carbon’ Industrial revolution, rather than having to play catch up. The next decade will prove to be decisive in energy generation.

A technology disruption in energy generation and storage is on its way and is unstoppable. As in the same way that petrol engine cars, mobile phones and the internet did in previous generations, this new technical disruption will be not lead by government, but the commercial needs and wants of society.

Ironically the drilling techniques used in fracking led to a technology disruption in the fossil fuel industry. Unfortunately this disruption just extended the life of a progressively out-dated fuel source.

The generation of electricity from renewables, such as the sun and the wind, will be a necessity to combat climate change.  The technologies of photovoltaic cells, wind turbines, concentrated solar power, hydroelectric, ocean-wave power and geothermal energy are already up and running and are being used across the globe. They are a very cost effective way of generating energy particularly when used with storage technologies such as pump storage and batteries.

Storage technologies, such as lithium-ion batteries and fuel cells, already power electric and hybrid vehicles plus billions of devices like mobiles and tablets. They are developing at such a speed that even home battery storage is now commercially viable.  Advances in energy-storage technology will make electric vehicles cost competitive, allow access to electricity in remote areas and enable  developing countries to install state of the art utility grids and improve the efficiency of the aging first world energy infrastructure.

Up to 40 to 100 percent of vehicles in 2025 will likely be electric or hybrid. This will have a massive effect on Oil production with demand falling through the floor and prices at rock bottom. We will still need oil for plastic products, chemicals and air travel but not for electricity generation or transport. A lower oil price usually means a lower gas price. Fracking cannot be done cheaply and to rely on expensive imports will push up energy costs for the consumer.

Developing interconnectors with other nations to provide carbon free energy such as Geo Thermal from Iceland, Hydro from Norway and Nuclear from Europe should also add to the UKs low carbon energy mix and the nuclear option should not be dismissed. With the costs of Hinkley Point rising and looking more an uncertain with the Brexit Result, Small Modular Reactors should be the considered. These are efficient compact designs that could play an important role in addressing the UK’s energy security, economic and climate change goals.

Our government has to be ready to respond to these new technologies. To have a plan! The best way would be by using and taking these technologies further, by looking for innovations that can capture value for business and society. Policy makers need to use the new technologies to improve their own operational challenges.  Retraining, education and investment will all be necessary to equip this country for the future. Other disruptive technologies in the communications industry like the internet and the mobile phone revolution must be embraced to facilitate new educational and training programs.

These future disruptive technologies already exist and will cause huge changes in society over the next 10 to 15 years. It is important for the government to be prepared and lead the way when the inevitable tipping point comes in the transition from a future technology to a commercial necessity.

With planning, policy makers can adapt these disruptive technologies to serve the common good of society and the generations to come.

It is the responsibility of a forward thinking party like the Liberal Democrats to campaign for a low carbon future for all.

* 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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5 Comments

  • We will still need oil for plastic products, chemicals and air travel but not for electricity generation or transport.

    Just a small question, what is being proposed for the refinery waste products petrol and diesel? Yes, we can change the distillation and so adjust the quantities produced, but they will still be produced in significant quantities…

  • Simon mcgrath 14th Jul '16 - 6:00pm

    A rather confused article. If green technologies lead to cheaper power (instead of as T the moment requiring huge subsidies) then great. firms who have invested in fracking will have lost money, but that’s capitalism for you.
    Similarly if imported gas is cheaper than fracked gas. None of this is a reason for not developing fracking now which can generate taxes, jobs and save us foreign exchange- all of which we need given the post brexit economic situation.

  • Jenny Barnes 14th Jul '16 - 9:59pm

    Modern refineries use cat crackers and reformers to produce exactly the fractions required. If, say, all you want is carbon for electrodes, methane for gas fired electricity generation and kerosene for jet fuel, you can have that. The fractions you don’t want get sent through the cracker, using steam to create lighter fractions.

  • David Garlick 15th Jul '16 - 8:56am

    The world is flat, pigs might fly, Nuclear Power production is safe and produces no waste…

  • AC Trussell 15th Jul '16 - 3:18pm

    “It is important for the government to be prepared and lead the way when the inevitable tipping point comes in the transition from a future technology to a commercial necessity.”
    A Conservative government leading the way- Isn’t that an oxymoron?
    Have people realised that things like “Oculus Rift” ; augmented reality; 3D independent internet connection will make HS2 and the need to travel to meetings a thing of the past?

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