Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has brought into sharp focus the importance of having greater control over key resources which are vital to our economy. Questionable foreign powers must not have the power to ‘turn off the taps’ as it were. Along with the rest of Europe, we must look to rapidly alter our energy makeup, so that we are not dependent on hostile states such as Russia.
With looming shortages of gas and oil in the short term, and our legally binding commitment to reach ‘net zero’ by 2050 in the long term, the challenges are immense.
Energy security means that we must have enough reliable home-grown power to weather stoppages or supply problems elsewhere in the world. Our energy mix must change and it is imperative that we tap our domestic sources with urgency, as we cannot hope to plug the gaps left by Russian gas and oil solely with those deemed to be renewable.
Nuclear is the most obvious solution. Yet, if we start building today it will be many years before energy is generated to power our homes and business. This serves to highlight what a great mistake it was not to develop a large network of UK built and owned reactors due to a reluctance to confront the irrational prejudice of a small minority of vocal protestors. But we are, where we are.
Thankfully, we see huge developments in the nuclear field, witnessed by our very own Rolls-Royce pioneering innovative technology in the form of modular reactors. Our resolute focus must be on building, rebuilding and improving our nuclear plants. This will not only usher in new sense of purpose, create high tech jobs and benefit the economy, it will secure stable domestic electricity generation for the next century. The undue weight given to questionable groups dominated by proto-communist lunatics like Extinction Rebellion must end. Reality has to prevail, and the only way to achieve true energy security whilst reducing our carbon output is to embrace nuclear and other ‘unfashionable’ fuels during this period of transition.
One thing we must do is tap our sources of UK gas and oil without prevarication. The usual suspects from an out of touch elite will cry foul as ever, but it is vital that we enable our people to have a cheaper, cleaner and more stable energy supplies. It is hopelessly naïve to imagine that we can completely remove our reliance on fossil fuels – gas and oil in particular – overnight. This is, and must be, a transition over a realistic timescale. Using UK sources in place of imported stuff is not a bad thing. Indeed, with our best practice in the UK it is more environmentally friendly to produce than it is to import from less reputable sources.
The same applies with fracking. We must accelerate our examination and experimentation with this this cheaper, cleaner fossil fuel. It is not the answer to clean energy but shale gas is a darn sight cleaner than coal and oil and could be a useful and relatively swift addition to our energy supply and security. The jury is still out as to whether our geology and geographical specifics would allow it to take off in the same way that it has in the USA, but we must at least ask the question and get on with our pilot schemes, rather than concrete over the existing trials through faux environmental outrage.
It seems to me that our current troubles in Ukraine may be the spur to prick the side of our intent to finally deliver on energy security to much of the western world and cheaper, cleaner energy to our people.
Nuclear fusion and storable renewables are nirvana but, in the meantime, we must not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Gas and nuclear fission have a continued role to play as we transition from coal and secure our energy autonomy in the year ahead.