Extensive gas exploration in the UK could lead to an unsustainable and expensive energy future, according to a new study.
Natural gas is said to help reduce energy prices and emissions and enhance energy security, and it is these benefits that have led to new investments into gas exploration and ‘fracking’ techniques.
However, new research into the environmental concerns and the future availability and price of natural gas paints the energy source as unsustainable and an expensive route for the UK’s energy future.
While gas does indeed produce less carbon than the likes of coal and oil, and should act as a stepping-stone while the UK develops an efficient clean energy mix, it is also a finite resource. Therefore developing renewable technologies such as wind, solar and hydro is the smarter option for the long-term.
The report, A UK dash for smart gas, by the Grantham Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics (LSE), is based on the most recent and trustworthy evidence on the opportunities and challenges presented by natural gas resources.
Authors of the study review its cost, environmental impacts, carbon constraints and implications for energy security. Analysis shows that significant heavy investment into gas, based on the assumption of unconventional reserves and low prices, is “a risky option”.
The report therefore suggests a lower risk option in the short-term – a “dash for smart gas”. This involves extracting natural gas with great caution in areas that offer the greatest value in decarbonising the power sector.
It also found that extensive use of gas-fired power stations will need to incorporate carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology in order to meet UK emissions reduction targets.
Long-term, the study states, “A heavy reliance on gas-fired power stations with unabated emissions would hinder the decarbonisation of the UK’s power sector.”