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Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Common ground needed to move UK electricity supply debate forward, report says

Government could do more to narrow the scope of the debate around the UK's future electricity supply system, according to the second report of an independent research inquiry launched at Westminster today by Charles Hendry MP and Baroness Worthington.

'Power from Renewables' calls on Government to work closely with industry and academia to establish 'low regrets' levels of technology deployment and thereby provide much needed clarity to the renewables industry.

The Institution of Gas Engineer & Managers (IGEM), which is sponsoring the three stage inquiry, has welcomed the report. Simon Griew, CEO of IGEM, said: "Too often, debates on the UK's energy policy are muddied by myths and vested interests. But Power from Renewables is a helpful contribution; a dispassionate account of the potential, the challenges and the limitations of renewables over the coming decades, informed by key facts, figures and analysis."

Another key finding of the report is that security of supply should be seen as a property of the whole electricity system, with individual technologies such as wind, solar, marine and geothermal reducing some risks and adding to others. One key challenge identified in the report is the need to manage constant fluctuations in supply and demand - a challenge made greater by the variability of renewable generation. This means the natural gas industry will continue to play a key role in the future energy mix, with gas-powered generation supporting minute-by-minute balancing of the system.

Peter Hardy, Head of Technical Services at IGEM, said: "Expanding the proportion of renewables in the power mix is indispensable for long term energy security, sustainability and affordability. Natural gas will also have a crucial bridging role in the power generation mix for at least decades to come, and the report highlights the valuable experience and expertise the gas industry can contribute to the further development of renewables."

The report also finds:

  • The UK has only just begun to harness low carbon renewable resources which are bigger than North Sea oil and gas.
  • New biomass policies are a pragmatic balance between environmental protection, building public confidence and encouraging sector growth.
  • Investing in renewables through electricity bills in the medium term has 'hidden' benefits: avoiding higher bills in the long term, making bills more predictable and delivering wider economic benefits.

Power from Renewables follows the publication in early 2013 of Power from Fossil Fuels, the first report of Carbon Connect's unique three part Future electricity series inquiry. Each report incorporates expert evidence from industry, academia and Government heard at special inquiry sessions led by former Co-Chairs Charles Hendry MP, former Energy Minister, and Baroness Worthington. The final stage, Power from Nuclear, will begin with an open inquiry session during late 2013.

Download part two of the report here.