The head if the UK’s largest energy lobbying group, Energy UK, has called for Britain to take lessons from Germany’s Energiewende [energy transition] model, making the shift from fossil fuel to a predominantly renewable energy supply.
Energy UK has historically been a champion of fossil fuels and has come under fire lately for supporting the use of coal based power stations even as the government announced that they would be phasing out the technology in years to come. The group has been criticised for, essentially, looking after gas and coal supply companies more than consumers and the health of the environment generally.
However, in an important and somewhat unexpected move, the group’s chief executive, Lawrence Slade, has announced that he wishes to bring the energy industry into the modern age and, looking forward, to push for the use of green, renewable energy in order to not get left behind as the rest of the world moves on.
Slade made reference to mobile phone manufacturers Nokia who famously fell behind after having been industry leaders as other companies made the jump forward with smart phones.
He said: “No one wants to be the next Nokia. I want to drive change and move away from accepted (old-style) thinking.”
Slade’s comments came after the lobbying group published their ‘Pathways for the GB Electricity Market to 2030’ document – a publication that “provides insights from those responsible for ensuring a clean, secure and affordable electricity supply to 2030, and then outlines the key steps required between the Government and the industry to ensure that delivery.”
The focus now, according to Energy UK, should be on long term planning and on making sure that we have an energy programme that lasts long into the future. This will involve on the one hand, giving existing gas plants a much needed boost in order to guarantee a solid supply in the short term, and promoting renewable sources, including extending subsidy programmes to onshore windfarms, to guarantee success in the long term.
The use of gas power is something that requires work in order for it to be worthwhile though, according to an independent report from the UK Energy Research Centre. They argue that to make gas power viable in terms of our overall emissions reduction targets, we must turn to carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology.
Making reference to Germany’s current energy transition programme, Slade said: “it would be quite a sensible thing to have an Energiewende but the emphasis would have to be on our own version not a direct cut and paste.”
He cited the current, much criticised, energy policy of our government, describing it as “not yet coherent” and saying that “the abruptness of some of the cuts and the scale of some of the cuts have alarmed some people.”
He argued that clear aims need to be set out before the means to implement them can be devised and achieved; the ‘Pathways to 2030’ document is intended to help on both fronts.
Catherine Mitchell, professor at the University of Exeter, praised the contents of the report and the new trajectory that Energy UK are now supporting.
“Energy UK is the conventional industry lobby, and is generally at the conservative end of arguments. This report reads almost as if they have ‘flipped’ to the other side. I take this to mean that their members realise that their future is in the ‘new’ energy system rather than the ‘old’, and this is to be welcomed.”