The unprecedented rise in gas and electricity prices over recent months has put energy markets under severe strain. The causes have been explored at length but essentially it comes down to a discrepancy between supply and demand. So far, almost 30 energy companies have ceased trading, leaving over two million customers dependent on the safety net provided by Ofgem and, with the price cap due to end soon, some vulnerable households are facing a grim choice between ‘eating and heating’.
The turmoil has highlighted our current reliance on gas imports to the UK and the arguments about what action to take are becoming increasingly politicised. Many of the measures being debated in Parliament are short-term fixes focusing on the forthcoming price-cap review. To compound matters, the focus on short term security of supply is stoking fears that that investment in renewable energy will be put on the backburner. A recent Vattenfall poll of 500+ UK-based business decision-makers found that eight in ten are worried they will need to decrease or scrap environmental investments in the short term.
Dulas’s Donald Speirs believes that “Short-term measures to protect those in fuel poverty are important but we must also look at the root cause of this crisis – over-reliance on imported fossil fuels. Applying the brakes and removing vital funding and incentives for renewable energy generation now would really set us back on the journey to net zero. Ultimately, the solution to this problem is having a clean, secure energy supply using the vast natural resources we have on our doorstep.”
Even as we transition to renewables, gas is expected to retain a role as a source of primary heat and electricity back-up for some time to come. It remains to be seen whether future zero-carbon fuels can be a drop-in replacement, and so more than ever before, energy efficiency is key to reducing exposure to fuel market volatility. As consumers, we all know what to do to conserve energy, but many believe that simply not enough has been done in the past 30 years to modernise the UK residential building stock in preparation for the post-gas era. Business owners are in a similar position, but can also ‘do their bit’ and keep their costs down by:
- building resilience into operations and asking suppliers to do the same
- shopping around for renewable energy tariffs and improving energy metering and internal monitoring of usage
- where possible, getting quotes for onsite self-generation of renewable electricity and energy storage.
Managing Director at Dulas, Ruth Chapman, comments: “We’ve helped quite a few clients reduce their overall energy consumption by installing solar PV and hydro schemes. Also, we’re currently undertaking research examining the feasibility of hydrogen production using renewable energy sources. Hydrogen derived fuels produced by renewable energy, will be a major component of the energy system in the future. It’s really important that incentivising renewable energy and investing in infrastructure and new technologies continues, so that we can become less susceptible to volatile global energy markets.”
The Government is due to announce the measures it plans to take to deal with the crisis at the end of January. Let’s hope that it is swift and decisive action that will help those most in need now whilst continuing to build momentum towards net zero goals.