Shale gas review: Energy efficiency remains ‘national priority’, experts argue

The Government is being urged to remain focused on the task of moving the UK to an efficient and low-carbon energy system following the release of a new report from the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee about the potential of using more shale gas.

The report, published earlier today (8 May), looks specifically at the economic impact of using shale gas, which is drilled out of rocks in a process known as ‘fracking’.

But Nick Molho, head of climate and energy policy at WWF-UK, believes the Lords has overlooked the many serious analysts who have said that shale gas in the UK is unlikely to have much impact on either gas prices or the UK’s rising exposure to gas imports.

“If we are genuinely going to reduce the UK’s vulnerability to future fossil fuel price shocks, the main priority must be to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels in the first place,” said Molho.

“Moving rapidly towards an energy system that’s more efficient, low-carbon and better integrated with those of our European partners should therefore remain the UK’s highest national priority when it comes to energy policy.”

WWF points to recent research by the National Grid which shows that moving towards an efficient and low-carbon energy system could cut the UK’s gas consumption by 40-50% by 2030, compared to what was consumed in 2010. WWF argued that this would be ‘a genuine game changer for the UK’s energy security’ and would provide more protection to consumers against volatile gas prices.

Friends of the Earth

Commenting on today’s report, Friends of the Earth climate and energy campaigner Tony Bosworth added: “Shale gas regulation in the UK to date has been a catalogue of errors and oversights as thinly-stretched regulators have struggled to deal with fracking firms with eyes on bumper profits.

“Today’s report recognises that the regulations aren’t working – but calling for the Government to ‘simplify’ regulations and speed up the process will not reassure local communities and a public unconvinced by this risky technology.

“But even with robust, effective and dedicated regulation and comprehensive enforcement, all of which are absent, shale gas has no part to play in the UK’s response to climate change.

“If the country could be powered by hype alone, then shale gas might have a role to play. But the real answer to our energy problems is not to develop the infrastructure for a new source of dirty fossil fuels; it is to cut energy waste and develop the UK’s huge potential for clean renewables.”

Luke Nicholls

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