It is no secret that we need a solid plan in order to replace the ever dwindling supplies of fossil fuels and to ward off the expensive imports that Eastern Europe have to offer. Of course there is no cheap and easy fix where this is concerned; no solution that is always on.
Major investments are obviously required to counter these issues that UK energy companies face. The old nuclear and coal plants will eventually close their doors and the UK will face economic penalties should we not meet the climate change targets which have been set already. So what are the options that the UK has to invest in a low carbon energy source?
The only three relevant options for this type of electricity in the next two decades are wind, carbon capture and storage and nuclear. Each do work, and well, but they also have imperfections and there is currently no other option as it stands which operate as well as these.
Whilst each of these forms of energy have their opponents if we let them have their own way we would have no option to turn to and that isn’t what the industry needs.
Considering the three energy options individually may help clarify a few points:
Wind – The best factor about wind is that is free but unfortunately the bad thing about this form of energy is we cannot control its availability, in winter especially. So by building lots of turbines to supports the wind energy network the UK would require gas-fired back ups to sustain the levels of energy produced and of course, at an extra cost.
Offshore wind farms are great and the further out they are the better they perform but the expense of laying cables and foundations is still significant although the Carbon Trust has partnerships with the industry to bring these charges down. An acceptance of onshore wind farms would be a cheaper solution to this issue.
Carbon Capture Storage (CCS) – This method is slightly trickier. Not many people like this way of producing energy and there are no natural owners of it. It can be a real annoyance to a gas-fired power station as it creates complexities and it reduces the flexibility all the while adding around 50% extra to a unit of gas based electricity.
Its downside is obviously the fact it keeps up fossil fuel use which is obviously not an ideal solution and leaves the market open to the aforementioned price manipulation from foreign energy sources.
Nuclear – The one that offers, on paper at least, the lowest and cheapest low carbon energy is nuclear. The issue with this form of energy is that the costs to build the power stations are too great. Stations being built in Europe are taking far longer than estimated and are costing way over and above what is being budgeted to originally build them.
The issue then is that investors are incredibly wary of putting money in when these projects are costing far too much to scope, plan and build.
So what are the next steps for these energy sources? Well only time will tell but if I was to guess the money will be found from SOMEWHERE and I can see more nuclear energy plant being erected. I like the idea of renewable energies, I really do, but we need something to work alongside these to provide the “support” if you like and it certainly seems to be the favourite amongst the current government.
Michael Wood is a keen energy blogger who worked with several energy companies including M&S Energy. If you would like to check out Michael's wother work check out The Green Energy Forum or New Energy Watcher.