Strategies to Meet Energy Demands in the UK
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Published: Mon, 26 Feb 2018
The question of how Britain will be able to meet its energy demand in the next 10 – 10 years is a matter of concern for the British Government. With aging nuclear plants, replacing these with cleaner and more energy efficiency plants is going to be a challenge. This dissertation aims to investigate the government’s proposals to construct a new generation of nuclear plants and rely more on renewable technologies, whilst meeting the energy demand in next 10 – 20 years and cutting C02 emissions.
- If Government proposals for new nuclear plants and renewable technologies will be able to meet Britain’s energy demands
- Is the current proposals the only answer
- Can they meet their targets of cutting C02 emissions whilst meeting demand
- Will they be able to construct the nuclear plants on time
- Have all issues been addressed, such as safety concerns when considering constructing the nuclear plant.
- Should renewables have a bigger contribution
The British Government have been concerned with the gap of meeting the British demand in the next 10 – 20 years. With aging nuclear plants and questions surrounding what is going replace these, and the commitment of meeting targets to cut C02 emissions.
The government has proposed to build a new generation of nuclear power stations and rely more on renewable energy to meet these demands. The conversational decision on this issue has raised further questions on whether this will be enough to make sure Britain does not suffer power black outs in the medium term. Experts in the nuclear sector have also questioned the proposals in terms of are these nuclear plants going to be build on time, who is going to pay for these plants and will the design be right to avoid any health and safety issues.
Other plans that the government proposes includes relying more on renewable energy to meet demand. Heavy investment will be needed to meet this target and it remains to seen if this will be enough to meet the demand.
2.0 Literature Review
2.1 World Energy Demands
Energy is fundamental in how we all lead our lives. As the years goes by and the higher the world population grows, this means that global demand for energy can only increase. The UN has predicted that as of 2005, 6.5 billion made up the worlds population, and this could grow up to 9.1 billion within 45 years (Asif and Muneer 2007). If the world’s population reaches this figure, then the world is going to face a challenge to meet the energy needs of all of these people, especially with the emerging nations such as China, India and Brazil.
2.2 Energy Usage
We use energy in all ways of life and we use them in a number of ways.
Areas that energy is used includes
Buildings consume over 60% (International Energy Outlook, 2009) of energy produced around the world. Buildings are split into domestic householders and commercial buildings.
Domestic buildings usage includes space heating, lighting, air conditioning, ventilation, and general electrical appliances. The volume of the property will determine its final energy consumption. The bigger the property, the more heating and lighting it will need to make it into comfortable surroundings. For residential buildings, the physical size of the structures is one key indicator of the amount of energy used by their occupants (International Energy Outlook)
Commercial buildings can include offices and government buildings such as schools and hospitals. Commercial buildings are of a similar nature to domestic buildings, but will be to a much bigger scale. For example, an office could consist of a dozens or even hundreds of computers, compared to maybe one in a domestic house.
- Industry consumption uses around 29% (International Energy Outlook) of the total energy produced around the world. Industry energy usage includes manufacturing metals, chemicals, materials and agriculture. The industry uses the energy it receives to operate manufacturing assembly lines, processing, space heating and lighting.
Transport uses the vast majority of oil that is consumed around the world. Transport energy accounts for cars, trains, planes and lorries. In comparison with the other energy sectors, the transport is largely constricted to oil and cannot operate with the other fuel options. In IEA (International Energy Agency) countries, the transport sector is taking an increasing share of oil demand (Taylor)
2.3 Threats to World Energy Supply
As the demand for energy grows, the threat of not producing this energy increases.
2.3.1 Fossil Fuels
Fossil fuels currently produce the majority of our energy needs and take many forms. Developed countries use oil, gas and coal and all of this fossil fuel usage heavily contributes to climate change because of the C02 emissions that they produce. Developing countries will use firewood etc and in comparison to the developed countries, the developing countries will produce alot less C02 because of their methods of producing energy. As well as the effects of the fossil fuels, the fuel reserves will decrease as the years and decades go on, particular since the demands for fuels will only rise. The security of getting these fuels is also a concern because of the political divides in the Middle East, where the biggest oil fields are. The political differences between the EU and Russia are also a concern because Russia is biggest exporter to the EU. The energy policies of Britain and France take these threats into account and are putting in place measures to reduce the threat. The threats that Britain and France predict is the increasing importation of these fuels, at the same time as demand goes up and the political strains increase. Our increasing reliance on imports of oil and gas in a world where energy demand is rising and energy is becoming more politicised (Meeting the energy challenge, 2007).
Out of all of the fossil fuels, oil is the most precious and scarce. It is the primary source that we use to power our transportation system, to produce energy and used to make many different types of products. The world’s energy demand is expected to grow by 45% in the next 20 years; therefore, the demand for oil is expected to rise by 26% over the same period. Even if we do maintain the optimum amount of oil production over the next 20 years, it is very unlikely that the energy demands will be meet by oil.
The issue of the oil peak production and its decline is much debated and opinions vary from a number of sources. One thing that is certain is that oil is not a re-newable fuel and as demands for energy increases year by year, production for oil will increase and this will deplete oil reserves more quickly.
The steady growth of spot oil price exploded suddenly in the second halve of 2007: in only twelve months, the price of oil nearly double – from $74/barrel on July 2007 to $147.27/barrel on July 2008 (Matutinovic, 2008.)
This was a huge hike in a short space of time, caused by the demand from China and India, together with unrest in the Middle – East were the main reasons. This increase in price however was short lived and to the present day is back to a manageable price. However, in the future the price will increase and stay there due to a number of factors.
- Energy demand going up, meaning that supply and demand will be squeezed.
- The political unrest in unstable regions where the largest oil reserves are
As the price of oil increases, so will the price of energy and we this may become uncontrollable over the long term.
Security of Oil
As mentioned before, the majority of oil reserves are contained within unstable regions or countries and countries that have political issues with the most developed countries. This includes the Middle East, which holds the most of the oil reserves and is almost always unstable. As the developed countries own oil reserves decrease, the importation of oil will increase from these regions and if the regions were to decline further, this may affect security of supply of the energy needs of these countries. The most important implication of such distribution of proven oil reserves is that future oil increasingly dependence on politically instable Middle East (Matutinovic)
In the past natural gas was not used globally to produce energy and by domestic householders. It is becoming increasingly important to meet energy demands around and in particular, the EU region. As with the issues with oil, gas reserves in the European Union and USA regions are dwindling and these regions are fast becoming increasily reliant on Russia and Middle East for their supplies. The UK in particular as a large proportion of its power produced by gas power stations and this has been addressed within their energy policy of the intention to decrease the importation of gas in the long term. However, in the short – medium term it is anticipated that Europe’s dependence on gas will go from 36% up to in 69% (Weisser H, 2005) even with the issue of climate change, as natural gas is less pollutant than coal and oil. Looking at Russia, by far the biggest supplier, for analysing the security of supply equation one has to account for the fact that this country’s energy policy is not only determined by economic interest but a least equally by geopolitical, foreign policy and security consideration (Weisser).
The country with the most natural gas reserves is Russia. As each year goes by, the EU will have to import gas from Russia more and more. The political relationships between Europe and Russia are not the best. This was brought about by the dispute between Russia and the Ukraine over the gas supply. This in turn reduced the supply to Europe, as the pipe goes through the Ukraine to supply Europe. This brought tensions between the EU and Russia, since then Russia has threatened the supply to Europe and dramatic price increases. Apart from the Russia, the Middle East is the second biggest exporter and like oil, is vulrable to political unrest and this may affect supplies to their customers.
Gazprom is the biggest gas provider in Russia and world. With demand for gas going to increase in the coming years, this will give the power to increase prices to the EU and other regions. If this were to happen, this would lead to higher costs for the UK to produce power and this would lead to higher power costs for domestic householders. The price of gas will also have to increase to fund investments to find new gas fields and pipes that transport the gas. The main reason for dual gas pricing has been to provide a gas subsidy to the Russian economy. (Spanjer A, 2007)
Coal was the first significant fossil fuel to be used by humans and was the spearhead for the industrial revolution. It is used by both developed and developing due to its availability and value
Developing countries use 55% of the world consumption of coal, which includes China and India. It is predicted that this is going to rise to over 65% in the morelonger term. The availability of coal is vast, which is the primary reason why it is used so much. It is found all over world, including vast reserves in the UK. It is predicted that if the current trend of excavating coal were to continue, it may take up to a few hundred years to exhaust the earths supply. As the coal reserves are spread all over the world, this gives an advantage to the other fossil fuels of providing a greater security of supply. Because of the inevitable decline in world reserves of petroleum and natural gas and rising demand for energy, coal is a major alternative along with nuclear power to meet these meets. (Yilmaz A O, Uslu T, The role of coal in energy production – Consumption and sustainable development of Turkey, Energy Policy 35, 1117 – 1128, page 1, 2007)
In the future, it is anticipated that cleaner coal power stations are to be constructed as coal is seen as a fuel that will meet the energy demand for the medium term. This is seen as a way of meeting the energy demands because of the reserves of coal offering a much higher security of coal, but also a way to reduce the emissions that coal gives off when used to produce energy.
2.4 Climate Change
The issues that are associated with climate change go back over one hundred years when scientists were discovering that greenhouse gases were interfering with the atmosphere. Over the course of history to this present day, the understanding of climate change has jumped dramatically over the past 10 years and scientists are beginning to see the potential effects that may have on the earth if we do not tackle the roots of the problem.
2.4.1 Energy Production
Energy production accounts for the vast majority of the green house gases that is produced. Energy accounts for over 80% of the global anthropogenic GHG’s (Quadrelli R, The energy-climate challenge: Recent trends in CO2 emissions from fuel combustion, IEA, Elsevier, page 2, 2007). These green house gases are a direct result from using fossil fuels in producing energy. The world energy supply is still very much dependant on fossil fuels to produce the energy needs for the world population, even with the growth of renewable energy. As stated before, the worlds energy demand is expected to grow significantly over the next 20 – 30 years as a direct consequence of a rising world population and the rapid development of China and India.
2.4.2 C02 Emissions
All fossil fuels contribute to green house gases, some more than others however. Coal is the biggest contributor of C02 emissions and this will just increase as coal becomes more popular, especially with China and India. An Energy production accounts for the vast majority of the green house gases that is produced. Energy accounts for over 80% of the global anthropogenic GHG’s (Quadrelli R, The energy-climate challenge: Recent trends in CO2 emissions from fuel combustion, IEA, Elsevier, page 2, 2007). These green house gases are a direct result from using fossil fuels in producing energy. The world energy supply is still very much dependant on fossil fuels to produce the energy needs for the world population, even with the growth of renewable energy. As stated before, the worlds energy demand is expected to grow significantly over the next 20 – 30 years as a direct consequence of a rising world population and the rapid development of China and India.
2.4.2 C02 Emissions
All fossil fuels contribute to green house gases, some more than others however. Coal is the biggest contributor of C02 emissions and this will just increase as coal becomes more popular, especially with China and India. An increase of C02 emissions in the last 35 – 40 years has been substantial and the total amount of C02 emissions due to burning of fossil fuels reaches to about 26 billion tons. (Saito S, Role of Nuclear Energy to Future Society of Shortage of Energy Resources and Global Warming, Journal of Nuclear Materials, Elsevier, 2009). These countries will have to find a guaranteed supply and this fuel will become cheaper than oil and gas over the longer term. These countries will have to look to coal to meet its energy demands for its growing population. If the projections are correct, coal will become more popular amongst the developed nations. This will increase green house gases and that is with the policy of constructing clean coal power stations. The oil and gas sectors will still have a very important part to play in the long term, but it is projected that dependence on these fuels will decrease slowly as the price goes up and the security of supply is not guaranteed.
2.4.3 Biggest C02 Producers
The biggest polluters seem are the countries with the biggest economic development, the rapid development of some countries meaning a higher energy demand and the countries population. The United States was the biggest polluter due to its economic power and industrial size. However, as China has grown rapidly, this has pushed it to become the worlds biggest polluter. This is because China has seen significant economic growth and has required it to increase its energy production to meet its industrial growth.
2.4.4 Affects of Climate Change
The affects of climate change will be catastrophic if the current trend of C02 emissions continues. Climate Change threatens the basic elements of life for people around the world – access to water, food production, health and use of land and the environment (THE STERN REPORT, Executive Summary (Long), page 6, 2006).
- Rise in sea levels
The affect of the earth heating up will mean the two polar ice caps melting, making the global sea levels rising. This will mean that countries or regions with a low altitude could mean land being lost. Global sea rises will mean millions of people being displaced and having to find alternative areas to live.
- Vegetation areas
These areas could change the whole global landscape, in terms of the areas where crops could be grown. This could mean areas where crops are grown just now, will not able to grow in the future and this again may displace millions of people, especially in the more developing regions such as Africa.
- Weather systems
There is current evidence that the weather pattern is already changing. The likelihood of this worsening is very real if climate change is not tackled. This includes an increase in category 5 hurricanes, increased flooding and an increase in heat waves due to temperature rises. Temperature rises will also lead to sever forest fires in regions such as Australia and California.
2.5 Financial Implications of Climate Change
As well as the physical implications of climate change, the financial consequences may well be as bad for all countries if climate change is not tackled and heavy investment put in place
2.5.1 STERN REPORT
The STERN report was produced to assess the potential damage that climate change could inflict on economies around the world. The evidence shows that ignoring climate change will eventually damage economic growth (THE STERN REPORT, Executive Summary (Long), page 2, 2006).
The report consists and focuses on a number of issues
- The affects of climate change on the economies
- The costs of putting in control measures to reduce the affects of climate changes
- The investment needed to change to an infrastructure that omits less C02 emissions
The report highlights the relation of GDP in relation to the increase in temperatures. There seems to be a trend in that for every one degree that the temperature goes up, then 1 per cent of GDP is lost. As well as the GDP, the biggest affect that climate change could have on is the developing countries, particular Africa. The report highlights that the ability to grow crops will reduce and water supplies will decrease dramatically and this will displace millions of people.
The STERN report also points out that investment is now needed to prevent much higher costs being incurred in the longer-term. The report comments that such investment should include the acceleration of cleaner and renewable energy.
2.6 Energy Policies
Energy policies are produced by governments to help them plan their countries energy production for the long term, set targets for cutting C02 emissions and evaluating their methods of producing energy.
2.6.1 Contents of Energy Policies
The contents of energy policies will wholly depend what country it is, how much GDP it produces and how confident they will be in making sure that they can meet their targets
Energy Policies will usually contain the following
- Security of supply
- Evaluation of their current energy production methods
- Methods of making sure that they have sufficient ways in meeting demand
- Outline any new ways in producing their energy
- Ways in which they will tackle climate change
- Their policies of using renewable energy to produce power.
2.7 Renewable Energy Policies
Renewable energy is essential for meeting the commitment to cut C02 emissions, to ensure the world can meet the energy demands, security of supply and eventually leading to cheaper energy in the long term in comparison with fossil fuel produced energy.
Renewable energy technologies have increased dramatically in the last 5 years. Its essential to have renewable energy in a countries energy policy to help meet all these commitments. To the present day, 73 countries are thought to have included a renewable strategy within their policy.
Between 2004 and 2008, over $120 billion of investment has put in place to increase the usage of renewables. Although this investment is substantial, it is predicted that that this type of investment will have to be spent every year to help renewables get to a level to produce energy to a stage where it can compete with coal and gas. While most renewable fuels are free, renewable energy projects have high up-front costs (Sawin J L, National Policy Documents, International Conference for Renewable Energies, page 5, 2004).
Renewable Energy types include
- Solar Power
- Wind Power
- Tidal Power
2.7.1 Wind Power
Out of all of the renewable technologies, wind power is by far the most used around the world. Wind power was the largest addition to renewable energy capacity (Renewables Global Status Report 2009, REN21, page 11, 2009). Wind power comes in two forms either on shore or off shore. Wind power is particularly used throughout the EU due to its climate. Wind power production percentage throughout the EU varies, with Germany being the most productive country within the EU.
2.7.2 Solar Power
At the end of 2007, solar power production accounted for around 0.5% of the power produced. As with the wind power restrictions, solar power is more effective where countries are better situated to get sun on a regular basis. Also as solar power is expensive to build in comparison to the more conventional power stations, this currently makes it unviable to construct until capital costs come down.
2.6.3 Other Renewables
The other options of renweables make up a tiny proportion of energy production, in comparison to the wind and solar. Heavy investment is needed to bring these up to level where they will be seen as a potential energy source as the other options.
2.8 Nuclear Energy
Nuclear power has is fast becoming one of the main sources of power for a few countries within the EU and the USA. Apart from the Western countries, nuclear power is fast becoming the one of the major sources of producing energy. There over 100 hundred power stations currently being built in Asia and alot more are being planned. Nuclear Power alone won’t get us where we need to be, but we won’t get there without it. (Abu-Khader M M, Recent Advances in Nuclear Power: A Review, Nuclear Energy 51, 225 – 233, Elsevier, 2009)
Nuclear power currently accounts for around for 14 per cent of the power produced around the world. It is expected that this will grow rapidly over the longer term as the worlds most developed countries construct more plants to meet energy demands.
2.8.2 Why Nuclear
Nuclear power has big advantages over the current main sources of power production.
- Security of Supply
Nuclears raw material is more readily available than other fossil fuels. This gives it a more guaranteed security of supply of generating the energy needed. Importing uranium is expensive to import, however it can be stored for several years and makes it less of a concern.
- Price Rises
Nuclear power is less of risk of being the subject to a large price rise. This is because it is cheaper to run the power plant in comparison to gas and coal power stations.
2.14 – Bar Chart Showing Predicted Price Rises for Each Fuel Type
(Adamantiades A, Nuclear Power for Sustainable Development: Status and Future Prospects, Energy Policy 37 5149 – 5166, 2009)
A doubling in the price of Uranium would cause a 5-6% increase in the total cost of generation, while a similar increase in the price of natural gas would lead to 65% increase in gasfired costs. ((Adamantiades A, Kessides I, Nuclear Power for Sustainable Development: Current Status and Prospects, Energy Policy, Elsevier, page 2, 2009).
- Climate Change
As with renewable energy, nuclear plants produce little or no C02 emissions. As the world is becoming increasily concerned with climate change, severe cuts of C02 emissions are being set and nuclear is seen a key player in reducing these emissions.
2.8.3 Safety Concerns
After the tragic accident at Chernobyl, it was understandable that nuclear power got a bad reputation around the world, with some countries even banning it altogether. However, since safety factors in constructing and operating a nuclear plant have improved greatly and the idea of nuclear power is taking off again. During the past two decades, nuclear power plants have also achieved increasingly higher capacity factors with the same or greater levels of safety (Adamantiades A, Kessides I, Nuclear Power for Sustainable Development: Current Status and Prospects, Energy Policy, Elsevier, page 12,2009).
2.15 – Bar Chart Showing Fatalities by Fuel Type
(Adamantiades A, Nuclear Power for Sustainable Development: Status and Future Prospects, Energy Policy 37 5149 – 5166, 2009)
The most obvious risk of operating a nuclear plan is exposing the public to radiation poisoning, with Chernobyl being the best example. Strict measures are now in place to greatly reduce such a tragedy happening again. This includes conducting risk assessments and putting in control measure to reduce the risks.
2.8.4 Nuclear Waste
The debate of nuclear waste was one the biggest obstacles for the new generation nuclear plants being constructed. Although the storage of nuclear is major concern, the technology is in place to manage safely and effectively. In comparison with the waste that fossil fuels produce, it is signifcently less.
My method of research was to use a mixture of both quantitative and quantitative research methods.
3.1 Quantitative and Qualitative Research
The method of using quantitative is and will be limited, in comparison with the other forms of data collection. This has used up to this point for comparing statistics, figures and forecasts. This is based on using journals, government reports and reliable websites being used to gather this information to allow me to compare the above. It will be my intention to continue this form data collection when completing my dissertation
The method of using qualitative will be the form of research that the bulk of dissertation will be based on. This is based on sources from journals, books, government reports, reliable websites, interviews and case studies.
It will be my intention to continue with this form data collection when completing my dissertation.
This form of gathering data has helped me gather the majority of my information. I have gathered peoples’ perceptions, thoughts and opinions of this subject. Information gathered was mostly opinions in the form of text, graphs and diagrams.
This has allowed me to focus on the subjects that I need to concentrate to be able to answer my aims and objectives. Information gathered included factual statistics and text.
This form of sourcing of information allowed me to gather some of quantitative and qualitative information. I made sure that these websites were reliable websites and that the information was as accurate. Information gathered included graphs, statistics and text.
My intention is to organise three interviews with three different organisations. This is to allow 3 different opinions based on the subject of my dissertation. This will include getting opinions on people who are involved with the nuclear programme, the renewable sector and an organisation that represents somebody/something for which the nuclear plants or the rapid construction of renewables may have negative consequences.
3.2.1 Initial Contact and Organisations
My initial contact to arrange interviews was via e-mail. I asked them for an interview by introducing myself, the reason for the interview and the topic of my dissertation.
My first contact was Mr David Cameron, of the Scottish Renewables trust. He kindly agreed to an interview in his Glasgow based office and agreed that I would be in touch when I am ready to conduct the interview. My agenda for this interview is to get his views on the developments of the renewables sector, the developments of the nuclear sector and will this be able to meet the energy demand
My second contact was Mr Peter Dobson, of Scottish and Southern Energy who are directly involved with the nuclear program within the UK. My contact with him came about because of the close relationship that my employer and SSE have. My agenda for this interview will be similar to my first contact
My third contact I hope to be the Scottish Wildlife trust. I have still to make contact with this gruop. My agenda for this interview will be to get the developments on both nuclear and renewables development in the UK and how this could affect the British ecosystem.
When it comes to conducting the interview, I will stress the confidentially is the most important issue when conducting this interview and will ask them to make me aware that a particular question can not be answered without their confidentially being breached.
3.2.2 Interview Technique and Agenda
My intension is to make the interview semi-structured. This will allow me to prepare a set of questions that I will ask all three participants, with the possibly of other questions being prepared depending on the organization. By having a semi-structure interview, it will allow me to get the information that I will require, while allowing any other questions or conversations to happen during the interview, as some topics may come to light during the interview.
I shall prepare the questions before the interview takes place and sent the interviewees the prepared question paper and the agenda beforehand.
3.3 Case Studies
It will be my intention to focus on two case studies. One will be in the form of concentrating on one of the chosen nuclear sites. I will give information on the suitability of the site, the energy that will generated, the benefits of having this plant and the health and safety implications of having the plant at this location. The form of collecting data will involve the use of journals, construction information, site location, government reports on this site and information coming from interviews.
My other case study will focus one of a key renewable project that has been constructed in recent times. I will give information on the characteristics of the site, the e
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