Chief Scientist warns UK's energy mix lacks resilience



Responding to media reports today regarding the pressures on the UK's gas supply, Professor John Underhill, Chief Scientist, Heriot-Watt University, said: "The UK's over-reliance on imports primarily via pipelines and LNG imports, without recourse to indigenous resources, has left us badly exposed to short term cold weather events.

"This has been further compounded by the closure of Centrica's Rough gas storage facility in the North Sea last year which left us without sufficient contingency during periods of extreme weather.

"Until 2004, all the gas our country needed was sourced from the UK, primarily from the North Sea and East Irish Sea. Since then, production has declined to the point where indigenous gas now provides only 45% of our needs. The shortfall comes from European pipelines (38%), particularly from Norway and Russia; and liquid natural gas (LNG) deliveries (17%), primarily from Qatar. This dependency on foreign gas is precarious to say the least.

"This is not the first time our gas supplies have been in short supply. In March 2013, for example, an unseasonal cold snap left the country short of supplies. It was averted by an LNG delivery docking at Milford Haven in Wales in the nick of time. This time big industrial users like INEOS and large manufacturers face the prospect of shutting down their operations to ensure our domestic needs for gas-fired heating are met in return for lower tarrifs when the weather is better.

"This short cold snap underlines how close the UK is to running out of gas for all of our energy and heating needs. It is essential that academics and industry work with government to develop a more coherent energy policy that weaves nuclear, renewable energy sources such as geothermal, wind and tidal power, oil, gas and clean coal, underpinned by carbon capture and storage techniques, to provide a sustainable mix of energy sources.”