A brief history of British energy security strategy
In 1998, the UK completed the construction of a large diameter Natural Gas pipeline from Bacton, in Norfolk, to Zeebrugge in Belgium. It was designed primarily to pump gas in one direction – from the UK into Europe.
In 1999, it began operating and so started the depletion of UK gas reserves, and along with it, the erosion of Britain’s energy security. In fact, by 2013, the pipeline had become so successful, that the UK had to become a net importer of natural gas.
The Bacton/Zeebrugge pipeline has since been reconfigured to pump natural gas in both directions, forming part of a Europe-wide network and inter-trading energy system. While that may be great for business and shareholders, it isn’t great for the UK’s energy security.
The department of energy security and net zero
Driven by delivering a return on investment and shareholder profit, the British government has allowed a number of new licenses in the North Sea to be sold to the highest bidder. New drilling creates more emissions, and more emissions drive global warming and climate change.
In a similar way to how the American pharma industry has created a legal drug crisis to protect their profits, the anti-climate lobby has dreamt up the notion of the need for energy security, on the back of the war in Ukraine. In reality, their only objective is to maintain their profits and help accelerate a global climate crisis. We don’t need to stockpile energy, we need to be smarter with the energy we have and use.
British energy security strategy, done right
Energy security and net zero can be achieved by requiring less energy, as well as developing the capacity to locate, generate and store energy efficiently. As we’ve discussed in previous blog posts, the UK housing stock leaks badly, causing much greater energy use than is necessary.
As energy prices rise, surely the smart option is to implement imaginative government policy and financial incentives to private homeowners, landlords, housing associations and local councils, to invest and improve the UK housing stock.
Instead, the Government has chosen to give incentives to large multinational oil and gas companies to locate more of the product that is causing the energy crisis. Under this government, we have seen the first coal mining licenses issued, and now more oil and gas licenses have been granted for exploration of the North Sea!
The UK energy crisis isn’t going away
In 2022, the UK suffered high temperatures and our own forest fires that were triggered by the weather. This year the forest fires came early to Canada. Neither event made much of an impact in the UK news, but are both sure-fire signs that even the UK, with its historically temperate climate, is at risk from the effects of global warming.
We will continue to be dependent upon oil and gas for some time, but their continued use and demand simply can’t continue increasing. We must take steps to not only limit their impact, but to find ways to reduce the demand and dependency we have on them.
Installing better renewable energy storage facilities around the country and offshore is a major step forward. It can help us to provision and meet our demands for domestic and commercial heating, cooking and transportation from cleaner, greener energy sources. More needs to be done with solar, wind farms and hydrogen power to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels and their dwindling supply.
Energy security based on fossil fuel extraction is not a zero-sum game: It has consequences.
Energy security based on renewable technology is a zero-sum game: It only has benefits.
The British government needs to stop being beholden to the profits of the power companies and be seeking energy security strategies that build a sustainable future for us all.