Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

Bruges Group Blog

Spearheading the intellectual battle against the EU. And for new thinking in international affairs.

A Modern Energy Crisis


This government's refusal to plan for Britain to be self-reliant in energy has produced a perfect storm of soaring prices, disrupted gas supplies and domestic steel and other essential manufacturing output compromised.

Years of inertia have been the consequence of a near-religious belief that "the market will provide" alongside an unfounded fixation that renewables such as wind and solar are a complete alternative to nuclear and gas.

The case of the Rough gas storage facility off the Yorkshire coast highlights the muddled thinking at the heart of government and commercial strategy in the energy field. In 2017, the owner Centrica, also the parent company of British Gas, was aware that the facility needed refurbishment. Instead it decided to close the facility.

Centrica is now lobbying to re-purpose it for storage of hydrogen, an industry scarcely off the drawing board. Unsurprisingly, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy backed Centrica's closure plan.

As a result, Britain now has capacity to store less than 2 percent of its annual demand, a fraction of the 25 per cent which industry analysts deem prudent. In contrast, Dutch storage of gas, though reduced from its norm of over 85 per cent still stands at over 50 per cent.

Such meager reserves leave Britain exposed at a time of global gas shortage, and heavily over-reliant on continental gas inter-connectors. These supply 47 percent of Britain's natural gas; they can be switched off, even if only for maintenance.

Gas is a key part of the energy mix for electricity generation, so a lack of storage also increases dependency on electricity inter-connectors. Settled weather in early September meant that wind turbines barely moved, and with a fire at an inter-connector substation, the coal fired units at West Burton power station had to be switched on to help meet demand.

Inter-connectors were built primarily to serve the energy market. The claim is that they help to shift surplus energy, increase overall efficiency and reduce carbon-based generation. But the reality is that they let the British government and the electricity industry off the hook from planning future energy supply, particularly nuclear with its lengthy development cycle.

The promise of dependable and affordable energy for British industry and households is an illusion, exposed by the failure of "the market" to secure supply. For the foreseeable future, only a rapid expansion of all forms of nuclear generation will guarantee that we can produce what we need.

The construction of the new station at Hinkley Point in Somerset, though ludicrously expensive, shows we still have the necessary skills and expertise to replenish our ageing nuclear stock. The long overdue Sizewell C station in Suffolk could be the first of many more. 

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Director : Robert Oulds
Tel: 020 7287 4414
Chairman: Barry Legg
The Bruges Group
246 Linen Hall, 162-168 Regent Street
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United Kingdom
Founder President :
The Rt Hon. the Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven LG, OM, FRS 
Vice-President : The Rt Hon. the Lord Lamont of Lerwick,
Chairman: Barry Legg
Director : Robert Oulds MA, FRSA
Washington D.C. Representative : John O'Sullivan CBE
Founder Chairman : Lord Harris of High Cross
Head of Media: Jack Soames