Gas is the future

At least that was the message from a new report published today by Oil & Gas UK and written by Pöyry Energy Consulting.

The report’s authors reckon the government’s commitment to renewables is coming at the detriment to affordability, security and decarbonisation. They say the target of providing 15 per cent of energy from renewables by 2020 should be pushed back and gas should be used to help bring down carbon levels in the meantime.

This may not be an easy argument for the industry to win. The Russian-Ukrainian row of 2009 has left a lasting impression to those in western Europe that gas is simply not a secure way of providing our energy needs.

And besides, politicians can’t see how ramping up use of a carbon-emitting energy source can lead us to a lower-carbon future, even if burning natural gas emits less carbon than oil or coal. As David Odling, Oil & Gas UK’s energy policy manager admitted at the launch: “Gas is the fuel that dare not speak its name.”

But the authors reckon that in the short-term at least, renewables, and especially wind, are simply too unreliable and expensive to be able to meet our energy needs. They modelled what UK power output could look like over a month (January to be specific) in 2030 with a large wind capacity and found it looked like this:

The orange part of that graph is the space they reckon needs to be filled by gas, which would seem to be quite a compelling need. The government would argue that other renewables can fill the gap if properly supported.

They also argue that if gas carbon capture and storage was developed as has that for coal, it could become a long-term low-carbon option. Bear in mind, however, that any such technology is still a long way off, with Norway having recently cancelled a planned trial into gas CCS.

Oil & Gas UK will take their presentation to the energy department and lobby their case. But don’t expect them to achieve much success. Here’s DECC’s response:

We make no apologies for upping the pace of the shift to low carbon energy sources, this is the right thing to do for our the environment and our economy.

This transition will not happen overnight and we have never lost sight of the fact that we will need a diverse range of energy sources in the decades ahead, including both home-produced and imported gas supplies to complement low carbon generation. However we must be mindful that too much gas in the short term could limit transition to low carbon in the long term.

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