Transitioning the UK to low carbon energy generation needs
to be driven by sustainability goals, rather than political
interest, delegates heard at the Crude Awakening energy panel
in London in March.
Speaking at the meeting, hosted by Instinctif Partners, Sir
John Baker, former chair of the World Energy Council and
current chair of micro gas turbine developer, Bladon Jets, said
that the UK must have stable and certain policies to derisk the
"What we need to do is not what we’ve done for
the last 30 years. There needs to be more consistency, less
tinkering with financial incentives (…) and a longer
term strategy on decarbonisation," Baker said.
He added that the UK energy market has been "bedevilled by
regulatory uncertainty", resulting in the loss of time and
investor confidence in the development of new technologies,
such as next generation nuclear, as well as wind, solar,
batteries and gas turbines.
Many of these so-called "green energy" initiatives may now
struggle to get off the ground in the UK, after the incumbent
Conservative government announced plans to cut subsidies for
renewable technologies at the end of last year.
Charles Hendry, former UK energy minister and a Conservative
MP, told the Instinctif meeting that subsidies should be
available to support early stage growth of renewables, but that
such payments should not become a prop and the price of energy
should not rise to meet the cost of implementation.
He added that offshore wind energy forms a key part of the
government’s current energy strategy and expressed
confidence that a new nuclear power plant, such as the one
planned for Hinkley Point in Somerset, southwest England, by
French government-owned company EDF, would go ahead.
"If [Hinkley Point] does not go ahead, I think the prospects
for nuclear in this country are very challenging," Hendry said.
"If state-owned entities can’t make it happen, who
According Diego Biasi, CEO of renewable energy fund, Quercus
Investment Partners, among the chief barriers to nuclear energy
are unanswered questions about the cost and safety of managing
He implied that while faith in a nuclear future is receding
in many parts of the world, confidence in renewable energy has
shown a linear progression, with investment in the sector
rising from $45bn in 2004 to around $270bn last year.
EV technology needs to mature before investors
commit to building the necessary infrastructure to
support it, according to former UK energy minister,
Charles Hendry. (MR38, via Flickr)
Transparency and competition
Andrew Mayer, head of public affairs in the UK and Ireland
for German chemicals group, BASF, challenged the notion that
government-backed operations and rigid policies would underpin
economically viable energy generation.
Referring to the projected price of the proposed Tidal
Lagoon Power project in Swansea Bay, Wales, which has
reportedly been reduced to around £96.50/MWh
($137.32/MWh*) from an initial estimate of £168/MWh,
Mayer suggested that the renewables industry needs
"competition, rather than certainty".
Energy UK CEO, Lawrence Slade, argued for transparency in
energy policy and criticised the opacity of the levy framework
for renewable technologies.
He said that potential investors in electric vehicle (EV)
charging infrastructure would be looking for a roll-out plan on
which to base their decisions – something that he said
is currently lacking from UK government strategies.
Hendry disagreed with Slade over EVs, however, saying that
the industry needs to mature further before long-term decisions
can be made.
"It’s a chicken and egg situation," he told
IM. "Nobody wants to invest in infrastructure
for what could turn out to be the wrong technology."
"We need to wait and see where EVs go and what kind of
technology comes out on top. EVs used to be a sort of
'gee-whizz’ curiosity, but now you’ve
got BMW and Tesla bringing out cars."
He said that German manufacturer Volkswagen (VW) was likely
to be the first of the established car makers to become fully
electric, in the wake of last year’s scandal over
disguised diesel emissions from new VW models.
Baker noted that a pathway to greater electrification across
all industries looked the most likely route to a lower carbon
economy but that a "gas bridge" was needed to facilitate this
Hendry agreed that gas will probably prove to be the enabler
of any meaningful transition to decarbonised energy, but said
that this would be effected without the exploitation of shale
gas in the UK.
He suggested that OPEC’s refusal to cut oil
production was designed to "freeze out" shale oil and gas and
that while this would not succeed in the US, it had made
European shale a "fairly risky proposition" – with the
UK at the riskiest end of the spectrum.
Hendry added that the UK government was right to ascertain
domestic reserves of shale gas but did not envisage a situation
where shale oil and gas would become a significant part of the
UK’s energy mix.
*Conversion made March 2016
Minerals in renewable energy
- Soda ash