NB: this guest post is by Sophie Hirt, my Parliamentary Intern and the views expressed are her own.

Security is the key issue at the heart of the Government’s energy outlook and will impact on all the decisions made by the Department of Energy and Climate Change for the foreseeable future. Security, it must be pointed out, is not just meant in the traditional, physical sense, though of course, this is a top priority. Security in this sense must be taken to incorporate sustainability, affordability and efficiency.

The Coalition inherited a broken situation on energy from the previous Government. There was no coherent plan in place to ensure that future generations enjoy the same freedom to use electricity as we do, rendering the task ahead even more difficult.

Towards the end of the decade, demand will overtake supply – there will be a capacity gap that must be filled. In order to meet the rising electricity demand, the Government will need to spend £110 billion on infrastructure. In addition to this, the combination of methods of energy production must be decided upon.

Looking ahead, it is clear that new methods will have to be pursued. One third of coal generation will be lost by 2015 and most nuclear plants will close by 2023. Managing demand will require the Government to work in tandem with energy companies, in order to ensure both are working in the same direction. The Government has always had a rather strange relationship with energy companies – it needs them for energy production and supply but it also has a duty to regulate the industry and act on the behalf of consumers.

Among the anticipated spectrum of sources of energy will be solar, wind, geothermal, tidal, each to be pursued to a different extent. The Government must achieve the correct balance in order to maintain security and a plurality of recourses is thus necessary. An important aspect of Government policy will be local involvement and input into decisions. It is extremely important that sources of energy are not only appropriate to the local area but is also desired by the communities it affects.

It must not be assumed that there will no longer be a role for traditional sources of energy, particularly gas and oil. In fact, there may be a significant role for the use of gas as a capacity mechanism which will enable the UK to meet electricity demand, even when supplies fall short. The mechanism will be enabled by a permanent storage of energy kept back for use in exceptional times of demand.

Challenges ahead for the Department of Energy and Climate Change will be numerous. Such strategic changes to our energy supply will require delicate and at times very difficult manoeuvring around carbon reduction targets. Cost-benefit assessments will have to be made in order to achieve this much needed energy balance.


  1. Steve Whitmore

    Trying to reduce of CO2 is scientific folly – a complete waste of time. The Green agenda is busted! Most alternative energy sources being proposed (wind, etc) are virtually useless.

    The only viable alternative to what is currently available is to use Thorium reactors. Investing in this clean(er) form of nuclear energy offers the best outcome.

  2. Vigilante teen

    Why not think outside the box? I notice you mention government and big corporations, energy companies in this case, who seem to be the only entities that matter in decision making, but why not try mentioning the most important group, the people! Imagine emailing everyone in the country to tell them that if they get solar panels or small wind turbines fitted to their house, not only will they get free energy and allow for the devices to pay for themselves, they will also be able to sell any extra energy to the mains or energy companies. Every secondary school, college and universiy in the country challenging their students to innovate new energy resources, to design and build their own wind turbines for example. It’s easy to do, you can find instructions on the Internet and can get almost all the parts from scrap. Offer university scholarships to those who produce the most energy, innovate the technology or get the most people from their community involved. The people becoming more self sustainable is an easily achievable goal once you get them interested and give them the knowledge to get started. Some corrupt, profit hungry corporation paving the way for free and sustainable energy is going to be almost impossible, especially with how spineless our government is. Start thinking big, innovate your thoughts and ideas and others will follow.

  3. Since I retired as an electrical engineer, I’ve tried to keep in touch with what is happening in the Electrical Supply Industry and it would seem that the system has been very close to collapse during some of the winter cold spells. In spite of “Eco” lamps and other palliatives, there are no signs of any significant drop in electricity consumption. Indeed, when the economy starts to pick up, industrial consumption will rise along with domestic demand due to new house building, and more electrical devices in the home. I’ve been looking for figures for current and projected future electrical supply and demand, but they seem to be a well kept secret. All I know is that I’m thinking of buying a small generator before next winter in order to power the lights, freezer and central heating control system!
    And whilst I am all in favour of renewable sources (except windmills), I believe that they are too far in the future and nuclear is the only way forward. For once I agree with the French!