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UK Energy’s Future: Fracking, Wind or Nuclear?

With growing concerns over ‘energy security’ amidst the imminent closures of coal-fired power stations, the effective moratorium on nuclear and the cynical view of renewables, fracking, in itself hugely controversial, has come to the forefront of public discussion with strong arguments on both sides of the debate.

Yorkshire has been at the centre of discussion with news that its Bowland shale formation could contain the bulk of Britain’s shale gas resources. Some experts have estimated that the Bowland shale holds 1,300 trillion cubic feet of gas. A tenth of that would fulfil Britain’s energy requirements for 40 years. Then again other experts dispute this. Oh the joys of energy.

It seems only right then that we should encourage fracking with the opportunity to safeguard the UK’s energy requirements without need for imports. Or does it? The proponents say this is especially the case in light of having seen how the shale revolution in the United States has led to a new energy boom and resuscitated American manufacturing.

However, fracking has attracted much controversy from environmentalists, who argue that the practice risks contaminating groundwater and protesters are already out in force in the North West. It seems they haven’t forgotten that the fracking by Cuadrilla near Blackpool triggered earth tremors, or so it is claimed (and denied)

Perhaps then we should be looking to wind farms to provide our future energy resources? Everyone likes a bit of wind don’t they? No, not at all. Despite dubious claims of the average citizen ‘loving’ wind farms, the conservative government have proven ardent opponents to new on-shore wind developments amidst accusations of stymieing UK moves to renewable self sufficiently.

Again both sides are overblown, pardon the pun, wind is neither nirvana nor netherworld, it is though, like fracking, nuclear, coal, a contributory element of a healthy fuel mix.

Scared off by NIMBY onshore wind opponents, wind energy has taken to the waves amidst the announcement of the first off-shore wind farm in the Channel to be developed with an ultimate capacity to produce 400 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 300,000 homes as well as cutting CO2 emissions by 600,000 tonnes a year.

Great news for increasing UK’s energy supplies and reducing our carbon footprint.

Yet once again protesters were present to try and veto the plans due to the aesthetic effect on the landscape or should that be seascape

There’s a running theme here, everyone isn’t always happy all the time, not least when energy generation, in all its forms, is involved.

Surely pragmatism should rule and we should be promoting this environmentally friendly method to safeguard our landscapes against global warming and providing clean, home-grown energy but allied to this we need to be realistic and recognise that existing solutions need to play an equal part in a balanced fuel mix.

But one thing energy policy, and energy opinion, in the UK isn’t is balanced.

Take Alasdair Cameron from Friends of the Earth for instance who said:.

“It makes no sense to attack one of the cheapest and most popular forms of energy while ploughing ahead with fracking in the face of local opposition.”

Such subjective views may be understandable, but helpful? No.

So it looks like we can’t keep everyone happy but does that really matter? What about nuclear power?

Many of our nuclear plants have already been decommissioned due to ‘ageing’ whilst others are set to join them in the coming years. Nuclear is controversial but by and large it has proven safe in the UK and its contribution to UK fuel mix is severely underrated performing as it does the back bone function of energy supply.

Put simply, none of the ‘new’ forms of energy generation, be it wind, fracking, solar or so on can possibly hope to replicate nuclear energy’s baseload characteristics and that is a massive problem for UK energy supply.

The government know this, hence their plans for a new £16bn nuclear plant at Hinkley Point yet even this has been dealt a blow by EU state aid controversies, insolvent partners and reluctant investors and that is despite an enormous subsidy regime to get the plant delivering. .

In addition a UN environmental committee warned of “profound suspicion” that the UK had failed to carry out a proper consultation with neighbouring countries, including Norway and Spain, over the possible environmental impact of Hinkley Point C.

Nuclear has always been met with suspicion by consumers and add this to the enormous construction costs to build this plant and nuclear isn’t looking so rosy either.

So that’s no coal, no nuclear, no fracking and no wind power. What’s left? A very dark, cold, dank country.

Grow up Britain, there’s more at stake than principle here

The choice is stark: investment or perennial blackouts – even the NIMBYs realise that something has to give. It’s time for action not posturing.