Could Ukraine conflict accelerate renewables drive?
As it stands, the UK is heavily reliant on using fossil fuels for energy. The UK generates most of its electricity by burning fossil fuels, mainly through the use of natural gas and coal. This is obviously not good news as gas and coal are a finite resource and so cannot be used forever.
But could the conflict between Russia and Ukraine accelerate the move towards more renewable energy? We will talk more about it here.
Germany rules out extending nuclear energy lifespan
Before getting onto the UK, it might be worth drawing a small comparison to one of our neighbouring countries – Germany. Although already heavily reliant on Russia for gas, it’s blocked plans for nuclear power extension and aims to build its first liquified natural gas (LNG) terminal in the very near future.
This was in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the devastation it has caused. Cutting their dependence on gas was a big move for Germany as it accounts for two-thirds of their natural gas imports.
When asked how long it would take to build the terminal to replace Russian gas, Robert Habek, the energy minister of Germany’s 16 states, said it would take two years, in reference to how long it took Tesla to build its mega factory outside Berlin. Habeck did use the words “Tesla speed” when describing this and we can’t argue with that.
Alongside moving away from Russian gas and to building their own LNG terminal, Germany also plans to speed up its wind and solar energy projects. All good news from the renewable energy side.
UK looks to Saudi Arabia for oil supply
The UK is also looking to move away from Russia for its energy imports, but is now looking at Saudi Arabia for its oil supply. Many are scrutinising Boris Johnson for his planned trip to Saudi Arabia, who plans to negotiate increasing the oil output from the country in the attempts to move away from Russia.
Saudi Arabia has a history of human rights concerns, and most recently their involvement in the war in Yemen. Many believe that Boris Johnson is jumping from one dictator to another, which does not solve the ethical problem of moving away from Russia.
Alistair Carmichael, the Lib Dem home affairs spokesperson, said: “If the prime minister goes in the next few days to Saudi Arabia, we will be sending a very clear signal that we are not that bothered about this kind of thing.”
The Green MP, Caroline Lucas, said the government is contradicting itself from moving away from Russian oil to go “cap in hand to another murderous tyrant who executes his own people” and asked the government to rule out a “more arms for oil” deal with the kingdom.
UK planning a big expansion of wind farms
On a more positive note, the UK has now deemed it necessary to plan for a massive expansion in wind farms. Boris Johnson has said expansion is for ‘national security reasons’ following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The UK now wants to ramp up its energy independence and be less reliant on imports.
The ‘radical new energy strategy’ is planned to be unveiled within a fortnight with its main objective to meet its domestic needs from a mix of renewables and nuclear. Being less reliant on overseas suppliers is good news as the UK will have more stable energy prices. This is because we are no longer reactive to wholesale energy prices when they spike, something that Russia invasion of Ukraine has exposed.
Last week on Twitter, Kwasi Kwarteng, the business, energy and industrial strategy secretary, said: “This is no longer about tackling climate change or reaching net-zero targets. Ensuring the UK’s clean energy independence is a matter of national security. Putin can set the price of gas, but he can’t directly control the price of renewables and nuclear we generate in the UK.”
Renewables in the UK
As of now, the UK’s largest source of power generation is natural gas, but renewables have been catching up. The contribution of renewable energy to overall UK power generation has doubled since 2014.
In the last quarter of 2021, renewable energy generated 17% less than the same quarter in 2022. This was mainly because of poor conditions for generation, in particular the low windspeed. But that quarter also saw the highest increase in capacity since the same quarter in 2019, mainly thanks to offshore and onshore wind farms on Solar PV.
Renewable energy (mainly hydro, solar, wind, biomass) made up 43% of the UKs domestic power generation in 2022.
The S&P Global Platts Analytics forecasted that renewables plus nuclear will make up 56% of the UKs power demand in 2026, with wind doubling its output from current levels.
Overall, this is a positive step in the right direction, despite the reasons why this has come about. Increasing renewable energy production in the UK means we will be less reliant on imports, and therefore wholesale prices, and is also a more eco-friendly and sustainable way of producing energy.
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