UK performing strongly on energy ‘trilemma’ despite energy security woes

The UK isn't alone in suffering from a lack of reliable energy sources, with a new report warning that nations are underperforming on efforts to improve energy security and reliability, despite cleaner energy becoming a dominant source of power across the globe.

UK performing strongly on energy ‘trilemma’ despite energy security woes

The Pulse also found that decarbonisation technologies are dominating the interests of decision-makers

That is one of the key findings of the 11th annual World Energy Trilemma Index, published today (7 October) by the World Energy Council.

The Index ranks nations on how well they balance the “energy trilemma” of energy security, energy equity and environmental sustainability of energy systems. It gives out scores out of 100 to nations across these three themes.

The report found that collectively nations scored 75 for energy equity and the availability of energy to communities worldwide. However, more than 700 million people still lack lacking basic access to any electricity or clean fuels. The Index notes that while many countries have universal access to energy, many people in those nations are excluded due to costs, with energy poverty extending to all geographies, including the most developed nations.

On average, nations scored 66 for environmental sustainability, after a 50% recorded growth in renewable capacity and  80% of new capacity additions now classed as green projects. However, global carbon emissions from the energy sector continue to rise, impacting the score. Worryingly, energy security scored an average of 58 as evidence by the current global energy crunch.

The Council’s secretary-general Dr Angela Wilkinson said: “The World Energy Trilemma Index provides a useful reminder of how important it is for policymakers to address inertia and make progress by taking a more holistic view of energy through the three lenses of the World Energy Trilemma. Only then will societies succeed in recovering from crisis, repairing the planet and renewing the wellbeing of societies.

“Today’s energy landscape is crowded, competitive and increasingly costly. Confusion, confrontation and extreme polarisation have become commonplace. The world needs more sustainable energy. Our relationship with energy and, consequently, with each other, is shifting and transforming. There is an urgent need to better prepare societies for clean and just energy transitions and to involve more people and diverse communities in the process. The challenge to develop shared appreciation and navigate the critical role of energy in everyday life has never been greater.”

UK’s winter crunch

The UK ranks 4th in terms of overall national performance, behind Sweden, Switzerland and Denmark and level with Finland. However, the UK sits outside the top 10 for energy security, which covers how strong energy policies seek to make the most of domestic resources while decarbonising the energy system.

The National Grid has today issued a report claiming that electricity supplies could suffer over the winter periods due to rising demand and capacity constraints, but that it shouldn’t impact grid stability.

The National Grid’s annual winter outlook forecasts an electricity margin of 6.6% capacity, which is lower than the 8.3% recorded this time last year. It is also lower than the 7.3% forecast that was made earlier this year. It means that the UK can expect to have 6.6% supply left over on average at peak times.

The damage to an interconnector in Kent contributed to a lower margin and there are concerns that a similar unexpected disruption could tighten UK supplies further.

Already, record wholesale energy prices have seen nine suppliers go under in September alone, which has led to calls for the UK Government to do more to protect the market and domestic supplies.

Commenting on the National Grid outlook, Dr Simon Cran-McGreehin, head of analysis at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) said: “The UK has already started the work of creating a more modern, dynamic, flexible power grid that responds to both supply and demand, and today that translates into National Grid’s confidence that the lights will stay on this winter. But margins are tight and the current system still leaves households vulnerable to volatile international gas markets and the geopolitical game-playing of President Putin.

“To reduce exposure to fossil fuels and create greater energy independence, the implication is clear: the UK should build more offshore wind as the Government plans to do and accelerate investment in grid flexibility bringing technologies such as batteries and demand management into the mix. Let’s not forget that the simple way to insulate against energy shocks is to insulate. Shifting us away from our current gas addiction should be a top priority for the upcoming heat and buildings strategy if we want to secure a clean and homegrown energy system for the future.”

Matt Mace

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