The primary sources of energy in the UK comes in the form of oil and gas reserves from the North Sea and coal. These sources are expected to continue to be dominant until at least 2020, although it should be noted that the annual output from the North Sea is now on the decline (UK Parliament, 2010). As a result, the government has embarked on a strategy to reshape the energy dynamic of the nation. The objective of the program is to establish renewables as the largest source of energy in the UK by 2020.
Nuclear power has been downplayed in the UK energy landscape. A lull in new capacity existed until 2007, so no new capacity is expected to replace decommissioned nuclear power plants until at least 2017, meaning that renewables development is critical to reshaping the UK energy landscape (Ibid). Wind is the crucial form of renewable energy pursued under the energy landscape strategy. Wind farms are already a common site in some parts of the UK, especially in Scotland, but there is now deployment of offshore wind farms as well, as part of the strategy (Appleyard, 2013).
However, wind is just one strategy of the UK renewable program, and there has been growth in all types of renewable energy production in recent years. A total of 19.5 gw of renewable energy now exists in the UK, with strong growth in the past year of 38% (Department of Energy and Climate Change, 2013).
Also driving the changes in the energy landscape are changes to the regulatory environment. Incentives have been implemented to encourage low-carbon energy production, for example. There have also been regulations to govern the carbon market, again with twin objectives of energy stability and reduced carbon production. There are concerns that the UK’s carbon program is behind the curve, as it lagged other European nations in particular, but there has been strong progress, borne of the realization that the nation’s supply of carbon was going into decline (Czyzewski, 2011).
It appears quite clear that there has been a change in the UK’s energy landscape, and renewables has played a strong role in that. The government has stepped in with a concrete plan, complete with market-based incentives, to encourage the development of additional renewable energy capacity. It is worth remembering, however, that there have been other developments; government is not solely affecting change in the UK energy market. Shale gas development has been a boon to energy development in many parts of the world and offers the promise of further change in the UK’s energy landscape (Buchan, 2013). This is important because part of the driving factor behind the shift towards renewables in 2010 was the apparent decline of hydrocarbons from the North Sea. Another viable source of hydrocarbons in the form of shale gas holds promise. There are problems inherent in shale gas, and we have already seen this past summer with the protests that any move towards introducing fracking into populated areas is going to be met with immense criticism and public dissent. That said, shale gas is a non-renewable shift that is also contributing to a new energy landscape in the UK.
In my estimation, it is clear that the UK renewables obligation is helping to transform the energy landscape. The incentives provided, in addition to the high level of exposure to the issue of renewables, is driving development in renewable sources such as wind energy. The current offshore wind projects are worth more gigawatts than all current renewable capacity in the UK at present. This makes it clear that government intervention is reshaping the UK energy landscape. It is worth analyzing, however, the degree to which the References
Appleyard, D. (2013). UK confirms plans for 39gw of offshore wind by 2030. Renewable Energy World. Retrieved November 11, 2013 from http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2013/11/uk-confirms-plans-for-39-gw-of-offshore-wind-by-2030
Department of Energy and Climate Change (2013). UK renewable energy roadmap update 2013. Department of Energy and Climate Change. Retrieved November 11, 2013 from https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/255182/UK_Renewable_Energy_Roadmap_-_5_November_-_FINAL_DOCUMENT_FOR_PUBLICATIO____.pdf
Czyzewski, A. (2011). Government reveals plans to reform UK’s energy landscape. The Engineer. Retrieved November 11, 2013 from http://www.theengineer.co.uk/news/news-analysis/government-reveals-plans-to-reform-uks-energy-landscape/1009385.article
Buchan, D. (2013). Can shale gas transform Europe’s energy landscape? Centre for European Reform. Retrieved November 11, 2013 from http://www.cer.org.uk/sites/default/files/publications/attachments/pdf/2013/pbrief_buchan_shale_10july13-7645.pdf
UK Parliament. (2010). Balancing the UK energy supply. Parliament.uk. Retrieved November 11, 2013 from http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/research/key-issues-for-the-new-parliament/green-growth/meeting-the-uks-energy-needs/
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