Blame fossil fuels, not renewables, for the UK's winter energy crisis

The UK's winter energy bills will be higher Evgen Prozhyrko/Getty Photos
The UK is currently in an energy crisis due to high wholesale gas prices. There are fears for vulnerable households and increased bills.

The UK was a pioneer in the pursuit of gas in the 1990s. It has relied on gas to help ease the transition from coal, a more polluting fossil fuel. The UK is heavily dependent on gas for energy. More than 86% of UK homes use it for heating, and over a third of the electricity supply comes from gas power stations.

The current crisis is caused by a shortage in gas supplies. This is due to production outages in Norway and other countries and increased demand from Asia. This is also due to low wind power output and the loss of a UK-France power connection last week. With the firing up of old coal and mothballed natural gas power stations, prices and carbon emissions are on the rise. Wholesale gas prices have risen by 176 percent since the beginning of the year. Power prices in the last month have risen 266 percent on an average for this year.


According to reports, the UK government may offer loans to energy companies who are struggling to deal with higher wholesale prices. This is due to the government's cap on the amount that firms can charge consumers and the lack of financial hedge against this increase.

It did not have to be that way. These energy crises are a result of being subject to the volatility of fossil fuel prices. They can also be cyclical. Countries that prioritize domestic low-carbon energy are better protected from such shocks.

The UK should be aware of this fact: Its last crisis occurred in 2018, when the situation was not as dire as it is today. However, wholesale gas prices were rising and many energy suppliers were going bankrupt, leaving society with the burden.

Continue reading: The UK goes without coal for a week, but the renewables revolution has stalled

Gas prices will be the biggest problem this winter. However, misguided solutions are being presented. Today's Daily Telegraph suggests fracking in order to increase domestic gas production. However, companies have failed for years to deliver shale under UK regulations. Some blame the energy price cap. Others call for the levies that support renewables to be moved off electricity bills. Taxation would still be required.

According to the UK's nuclear power trade organization, nuclear is the solution. A new nuclear plant would require at least 10 years to construct and energy bill payers would be responsible for any construction delays or overbudget.

The UK government and its main political opponents seem to have come together in rare unity to realize that the only long-term solution is to reduce the UK's dependence on gas. This can be done by supporting renewables and low-carbon options to gas boilers such as heat pumps. Kwasi Kwarteng the energy minister, met with energy companies this morning to discuss the importance of the UK's plans to create a strong, domestic renewable energy sector in order to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Ed Miliband, Labour party, said that the current situation was due to insufficient investment in energy efficiency and zero carbon energy.

The UK has a strong track record in supporting renewables and lowering their costs. Auctions will begin in December and include more subsidies for solar and wind power. This country's energy efficiency scorecard is worse. A number of schemes that were intended to improve energy efficiency or insulate homes have failed. The Green Homes Grant was the latest to be axed after it only improved a tenth the homes it was meant to.

There may be a chance to redeem yourself soon. A new UK strategy for heat and buildings is expected to be published by the government. This could help prevent another energy crisis.

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