Last week’s discovery of an estimated 200 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the Northwest of the UK presents both an opportunity and a threat for European wind.
First though, let’s cover off the facts. According to Cuadrilla Resources, the Lichfield-based energy exploration firm responsible for the find, approximately 10-30% of the gas is recoverable, with the first fuel being brought to the market in 2013.
Now a 10-30% recovery rate is seriously impressive stuff and, with the UK currently consuming approximately 3.3 trillion cubic feet of gas every year (about half of which is currently imported) it offers the very real potential of combating some of the recent energy company price hikes.
Naturally then, pressure is already being placed on the UK government to push through the plans and to capitalise on what is already being viewed by some prominent industry commentators as, “…an abundant, cheap, domestic source of energy…”
However, in the risk to satiate a desire for cheaper consumer energy bills, let’s not lose sight of the longer-term UK energy vision.
Sure, extracting the gas provides us with a viable energy export and there’s a strong argument to suggest that hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” need not be as environmentally destructive as some activists would have us believe. However, to focus exclusively on a short-term reduction in energy bills and the complexities of extraction is to miss the point.
Put simply, the available gas reserves are finite and present a danger of distraction. The UK government and the wider energy industry must recognise this for what it is, particularly at this critical stage of renewable energy investment.