The future of the UK’s energy supply lies in renewables – here’s why
Stuart Gentry is at the forefront of innovative thought leadership surrounding the development of sustainable energy in order to combat climate change.
As well as teaming up with various businesses across England and around the world to find new ways to fight climate change through the provision of sustainable energy sources, Stuart Gentry is always aware of the challenges ahead.
Climate change, energy security and decarbonisation
In this article, Stuart Gentry will analyse the convergence of energy challenges in 2022 – affordability, security and decarbonisation – and review the renewed challenges facing the world.
Stuart Gentry says: “Of course, we’ve been aware of the need to act in this space for many years. And there has been a lot of innovation and development in sustainable energy. However, more recent events have pushed the point of the precarious nature of the current energy infrastructure and demands more get involved with strengthening it.”
There is an urgent need to protect global energy stability
Stuart Gentry explains: “Recent history shows us that we need to support the accessibility and affordability of sustainable energy sources. The illegal Russian war of aggression on Ukraine has shone a spotlight on the fragility of energy sources.
“Energy forms the very backbone of modern society and is absolutely critical to the global economy and to international relations. We are now living in a time of unprecedented geo-political pressures which have forced rising inflation and interest rates and massively heightened volatility in the energy market.
“While navigating these changes and the resultant cost of living crisis predicated by soaring energy bills, we need to keep our eyes on the main point – providing sustainable sources of energy and a stable service to the English and UK market.”
A look at the recent history of the 2022 energy crisis
“We’ve all seen our energy bills rise by significant amounts,” explains Stuart Gentry. “This was a global problem throughout 2022. The UK Government sought to act in a way that garners support for their attempts to restore order and start making plans for investment.
“The UK Government went on to share this in the British Energy Security Strategy (BESS), which was received in April 2022. The BESS lays out an order of planning to secure energy independence for the UK by way of renewable energy, low carbon hydrogen, nuclear power and – controversially – new North Sea gas and oil extraction.
“At the same time, the Electricity Generator Levy sought to claw back some of the massive profiteering by major players in the market. Alongside all of this was the rising and increasingly urgent need to protect consumers from damages caused by prohibitively high energy bills.
“This resulted in the Energy Price Guarantee (EPG) and Energy Bill Relief Scheme (EBRS) on 1 October 2022. Since that date, the scheme ran until 31 March 2023, at which point the Government withdrew it on the grounds that it’s too expensive.”
The urgent need for sustainable energy
Currently, the UK’s goal for total decarbonisation of the electricity market is 2035. Stuart says: “While the goal is 2035, the energy crisis has shown just how far away the UK is from sustainability and shows clearly just how much we have to learn.
“One of the most important factors to note is that the UK is still teaming up with fossil fuels. This prompted the Government to re-examine the whole market via the Review of Electricity Market Arrangements (REMA) in July 2022.
“The whole idea of this is to ensure that the necessary reforms take place.”
Demand for electricity is rising every day
Due to the increase in demand and that this is anticipated to continue, there is ongoing work into improving investment in power grids.
For example, in 2022, the Holistic Network Design plan was published. Explains Stuart Gentry: “This, along with the updated Networks Options Assessment, proposes teaming investment into the grid and into offshore wind.
“Throughout this year, we’ll see more offshore network plans emerging, along with a lot of tangible development plans. Ofgem and the Government have both said that they will support a far greater amount of co-ordinated planning well into 2024.
“Also part of the plans to one day deliver a sustainable, clean and flexible power network, there will be more notice about the design of how long-term storage will be achieved.”
What about renewables?
The Government has upped its ambitions for offshore wind, which is now to follow the aim of producing 50GW by 2030. It’s interesting to note that 5GW of this target will comprise offshore wind from floating windfarms.
Stuart says: “A lot of this commitment to act was laid out at COP27 where the UK signed up to the Global Offshore Wind Alliance. However, while offshore wind appears to have a lot of action around it in the UK, onshore wind is far less certain.
“The current Conservative Government is split over the need to relax planning rules in order to pave the way for onshore wind farms. Given the chaos surrounding the Government so far in 2023, it’s likely that this will continue to put off for another day.”
A fresh interest in renewables for 2023?
There is more of a push for businesses to properly define and give clear notice of their ESG practices, as following the energy crisis last year, it’s clear that many significant businesses are practicing a form of disaster capitalism.
Explains Stuart Gentry: “The massive disruption caused to global energy markets due to the Russian war on Ukraine led to a surge in use of non sustainable forms of energy.
“The likes of Shell and BP were quick to cream off massive profits with both posting notice of between 21% and 29% just six months into the Russian war on Ukraine. Sustainable investment dropped too, with interest pivoting to other asset classes.
“All of this, of course, couldn’t come at a worse date, given the urgent need to lower emissions and craft a viable way towards Net Zero. We’re now half way through 2023, however, and it seems that there is a push of interest from both Government and the private sector to date.”
Dealing with current pressures and planning for the future
High energy bills remain for consumers, who are also dealing with runaway inflation, far more expensive mortgages and rent and a generally significant cost of living crisis.
This isn’t, of course, restricted to the UK but the country is also dealing with the loss of trade and value of the pound due to Brexit.
Stuart says: “Arguably, we’re in receipt of the worst of both worlds right now. The Department of Energy Security and the Government itself must make significant moves to tackle the day to day problems facing people and to plan for a Net Zero future.
“Investors should do their research if they want to put their money into any ESG or sustainable business fund. This sector will continue to expand, regardless of existing challenges, as we have little choice but to aim for Net Zero.”