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Government renewables dogma is blocking only viable solutions to the UK’s energy crisis

Press Release
Net Zero Watch has blamed the government’s failed renewables priority as the main obstacle to solving Britain’s energy cost and security crisis and a return to healthy economic growth.

Due to its wind and solar energy policies the UK not only has very expensive electricity but is largely reliant on natural gas to guarantee security of supply, since gas is, with the exception of trace contributions of coal and a declining nuclear fleet, the only thermodynamically competent source. Natural gas also supplies the vast bulk of domestic and industrial heat, making the UK overall strikingly gas-dependent, a problem that was evident before the invasion of Ukraine but was exacerbated by it. This problem had been long-predicted by analysts critical of the renewables agenda.

The UK Office for Budget Responsibility’s most recent Fiscal Risks and Sustainability report (July 2023) notes the UK’s gas-dependence, but fails to understand that lack of fuel diversity is the product of climate change policies. It thus mistakenly concludes that the country should reduce its exposure to natural gas by investing still more heavily in renewable energy such as wind and solar, which are claimed to be cheaper than fossil fuels.

In fact, the data presented by the OBR on the levelized cost of wind and solar is known to be mistaken. It is contradicted by the audited financial statements of wind and solar companies which demonstrate that CAPEX and OPEX for these sources remains very high, and that in point of fact the energy generated is still very expensive.

When combined with grid and system balancing costs, which are acknowledged but arguably understated by the OBR, the total cost to the consumer of wind and solar electricity makes electricity from natural gas look like a bargain – even at the higher gas prices currently prevailing, and very expensive as compared to the prices of natural gas that the OBR itself reports as likely in the coming decade.

While there are rational concerns about future spikes in natural gas, the best means of insulating UK consumers against such effects is not through more wind and solar, which will only prevent spikes by guaranteeing consistently high prices, but by ceasing to inhibit further exploration in the North Sea, and by lifting the unjustified moratorium preventing onshore fracking for natural gas.

This policy can and should be combined with the government’s new enthusiasm for nuclear power (See the Department’s statement: “British nuclear revival to move towards energy independence”). But once again the current renewables policies stand in the way. The prioritisation of renewables form a significant obstacle to attracting private investment to support new nuclear electricity generation, since the heavily subsidised and policy-privileged position of both wind and solar poisons the market for viable alternative technologies such as nuclear.

Dr John Constable, NZW’s Energy Director, said:

Ignorant policy support for wind and solar has resulted in over-dependence on imported natural gas. To remedy this, government must abandon wind and solar, and put the UK’s energy supply back on a thermodynamically sound footing by permitting further exploration for gas (and oil) in the North Sea as well as onshore through hydraulic fracturing.

Admitting the renewables error would also remove the main obstacle to private investment in nuclear which is not the technology risk of nuclear itself, but the market risk arising from strong distortions irrationally favouring renewables. A gas to nuclear strategy remains the best, indeed the only viable way to secure energy supply and support economic growth.”