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Energy questionnaire

Pylon

Energy experts questioned by BBC News are warning that this country will face an unacceptable risk of major blackouts in less than 10 years unless policy is radically improved.

They say the government is to blame because it has dithered over policies vital to energy security and climate security.

The findings map the scale of the huge challenge facing the new Department of Energy and Climate Change.

A total of 31 experts took part in the questionnaire, which is not definitive.

INFRASTRUCTURE INSTABILITY

1. The UK's energy infrastructure is in a bad way and is not being renewed fast enough.

Agreed Disagreed Undecided
16 9 6

It is not so much that it is in a bad way as that we are not renewing it fast enough to cope with the twin pressures of climate and energy security in future.
Tom Burke

2. Under current policies there is an unacceptable risk of major blackouts in the next:

  Agreed Disagreed Undecided No answer
Month 0 26 2 3
Year 1 25 2 3
Three years 2 23 3 3
Five years 7 13 8 3
Ten years 13 9 6 3

3. It is impossible and undesirable to plan for 100% reliability in electricity supply at all times.

Agreed Disagreed Undecided No answer
17 9 4 1

Our dependency on electricity is so critical that we must plan for 100% reliability, as an unreliable supply is unacceptable.
Dr Scott Steedman

URGENCY

4. In order to secure future energy supplies the new government department of Energy and Climate will need to have policies in place within the next X years.

Six months One year Two years Three years Undecided
2 7 6 3 13

COAL

5. The UK should re-open mothballed coal power stations and extend the life of existing coal power stations that have been slated to close (which would likely mean seeking a delay or amendment to the implementation of EU laws on acid rain).

Agreed Disagreed Undecided
5 20 6

Life extension isn't just a matter of changing laws - the plant is old and needs money spent fixing it. This money could be better spent elsewhere.
Dr Tim Jervis

6. Any new coal plants should be fitted with carbon capture and storage technology from the outset.

Agreed Disagreed Undecided
22 8 1

7. Carbon capture and storage is unlikely to prove viable for either technical or financial reasons.

Agreed Disagreed Undecided
2 21 8

I support the government's efforts to finance a demonstration plant - but think that one plant is not enough, and that they have been too slow to do this...it is simply impossible to tell whether it will deliver either technically or economically - but without concerted action by many countries to support full scale demonstrations to test CCS using a variety of technologies, fuels and storage locations, it will never make a major contribution to emissions reduction.
Dr Jim Watson

NUCLEAR

8. A major expansion of nuclear power is necessary.

Agreed Disagreed Undecided
18 10 3

9. Uncertainties mean that the electricity market is unlikely to deliver the nuclear power stations the government wants.

Agreed Disagreed Undecided
18 8 5

No nuclear power station anywhere has been built without large government subsidies both open and hidden.
Tom Burke

GAS

10. Gas is getting too politically and geographically dangerous, therefore we should adopt policies to reduce our reliance on natural gas.

Agreed Disagreed Undecided
15 12 4

[Agrees with the premise] Also burning a primary energy resource to make electricity is inefficient and not sustainable practice
Dr Sue Ion

11. In the absence of significant improvements in gas storage we are likely to face serious problems with our gas supply in the future.

Agreed Disagreed Undecided No answer
22 2 5 2

If anything, one of the UK's main problems is closer to home and is the lack of gas storage capacity. Traditionally, the UK did not need a high volume of gas storage capacity by virtue of the fact of its comparatively low demand for gas and also the level of production from the North Sea. However, as North Sea output has declined and the UK's gas demand has grown, this has resulted in the country becoming a net importer of gas - an outcome which has completely changed the dynamic of the supply-demand balance for gas.
Dr Craig Lowrey

GRID

12. We should lay transmission lines to other European countries to form a North Sea Grid to improve stability of supply.

Agreed Disagreed Undecided
20 5 6

13. Small scale generation should be radically expanded to ensure security of supply.

Agreed Disagreed Undecided
17 5 9
14. In dealing with energy security and carbon emissions it would be better if our power system had remained nationalised.

Agreed Disagreed Undecided
3 14 14

SEVERN

15. We must get power from a Severn barrage or lagoons.

Agreed Disagreed Undecided
12 8 11

It's one option among several, economics and environmental issues should determine.
Dr Simon Harrison

RENEWABLES

16. It is not technologically realistic to expect that renewables will deliver 40% of our electricity by 2020.

Agreed Disagreed Undecided
13 16 2

17. Adequate policies are in place to reduce demand and deliver major savings in electricity.

Agreed Disagreed Undecided
1 26 4

18. Dynamic demand from appliances will make a meaningful contribution to protect us from blackouts in the future.

Agreed Disagreed Undecided
18 5 8

COST

19. As we may be entering a recession, the government should relax its commitment to making carbon cuts in order to maximise the supply of cheap energy.

Agreed Disagreed Undecided
1 26 4

The Stern review and its updates make clear there is no time for this, but the pressure needs to be global not just UK.
Dr Simon Harrison

OPTIONS

20. The role of heating in the energy supply debate is vitally important and needs much more attention.

Agreed Disagreed Undecided
29 1 1

21. The government should dedicate auction revenues from the next round of emissions trading to support investment in infrastructure and low-carbon technologies not use the billions in revenue for general government expenditures as the Treasury would prefer.

Agreed Disagreed Undecided
22 3 6

22. There are relative cheap and simple energy solutions the government is ignoring.

Municipal incinerators generating electricity could be built in all large conurbations, pick up small scale hydro from dams and rivers, domestic heat pumps.
Professor Ian Fells

Serious focused investment in improving tens of thousands of buildings that are government's responsibility - everything from schools to prisons.
Walt Paterson

23. The installation of smart meters in every home in Britain is the single most important thing we could do to ensure security of electricity supply.

Agreed Disagreed Undecided No answer
2 23 2 4

24. We will reach peak oil before 2020 (production peaking then plateauing or declining).

Agreed Disagreed Undecided No answer
7 6 14 4


We sought a cross-section of expert opinion. Our list was chosen with the help of Prof Newbery at the Electricity Policy Research Group. This questionnaire is not conclusive but we believe it does reflect the scale of the challenge to a government wanting to ensure climate security, energy security and affordability.

The opinions of those given are of the individuals, not necessarily the opinion of the organisations they represent.

Those who gave their permission to be named in publishing the results of the survey are:

Prof David Newbery, director Electricity Policy Research Group; Ian Bourne, editor at Argus Media Group; Dr Pierre Noel, Research Associate Electricity Policy Research Group; Antony Froggatt, senior research fellow Energy Chatham House; Dr Scott Steedman, vice-president of Civil Engineers; David Porter, chief executive of Association of Electricity Producers; Dr Tim Jervis, director at Cambridge Energy; Dr Jim Watson, deputy director at Sussex Energy Group, deputy leader Tyndall Centre; Prof Richard Macrory, environmental law UCL; Prof Ian Fells, Principal Fells Associates; Dr Jon Gibbins, senior lecturer Mechanical Engineering Dept, Imperial College; Henry Edwardes-Evans, Platts managing editor, Power in Europe; Dr Simon Harrison, chairman of Institution of Engineering and Technology; Prof Sir David King, director, Smith School of Enterprise and Environment, Oxford University; John Loughhead, executive director, UK Energy Research Centre; Dr Craig Lowery, head of Energy Markets Research, Energy Information Centre (EIC); Prof David MacKay, professor of physics at Cambridge University.


SEE ALSO
UK experts give blackouts warning
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Britain 'facing energy shortfall'
Sunday, 27 January 2008, 00:14 GMT |  Science & Environment
Ex-adviser backs nuclear increase
Thursday, 29 May 2008, 11:58 GMT |  Politics
Britain 'faces power cuts threat'
Wednesday, 17 September 2008, 04:21 GMT |  Science & Environment
Blackouts after Sizewell shutdown
Tuesday, 27 May 2008, 22:53 GMT |  UK

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