This post is by Anthony Browne, Conservative MP for South Cambridgeshire and chair of the Environment APPG.
The current energy crisis has led to calls for more gas. But the reality is that over reliance on gas has caused the upcoming squeeze on household budgets.
Eighty five per cent of British homes use gas for heating and more than a third of electricity supplies come from gas power plants. Right now, we’re exposed.
There are better, cheaper options
Gas prices have always been volatile. The gas price is determined by international markets and more drilling in the North Sea won’t bring down our prices. The first four days of the current gas crunch in September triggered the greatest gas export from the UK to Europe ever, as gas producers sought the best price for their product. The burning of gas also causes climate change. We can’t go on heating our homes and running our cars with fossil fuels forever. There are better, cheaper options.
Ahead of the COP26 climate summit, the prime minister said the UK will be the “Saudi Arabia of wind”. It may sound like bluster, but it is smart money and our route to cheap and independent energy. The UK is a windy island nation, so we are well placed to benefit.
But what happens when the wind doesn’t blow? Wind will be complemented by solar and other technologies, such as nuclear, and backed up by battery and hydrogen storage and interconnectors with reliable partners like Norway and Denmark. In fact, many experts believe that, on our current path, we will begin to consistently export cheap clean electricity to Europe by the middle of the decade and be a net exporter by the 2040s.
We shouldn’t lose sight of long term security
With more domestic cheap renewable energy, combined with tech to store it and nuclear to back it all up, we will be insulated from Russia and volatile gas markets.
The government has many challenges on its plate right now, and there is no silver bullet for easing the pressures on household budgets this spring. Every policy tool should be considered, from VAT cuts to boosting the Warm Homes Discount. What we mustn’t do is lose sight of our long term security and prosperity, which is in cheap domestic renewable power like solar and wind. We can’t afford to be blown off course.