UK Energy Supply: Security or Independence? - Energy and Climate Change Contents

2  Context

Security versus independence

4. The terms "energy security" and "energy independence" are often used interchangeably, but we have sought to distinguish between these concepts and explore their policy implications for the UK. It was suggested to us that while energy security and energy independence "are not mutually exclusive, only security is essential".[3] Energy independence has been defined as a reduced reliance on imports, but this was regarded as being of limited worth without security. Energy independence as a goal could be considered as "misleading and costly" as most countries do not have the resources to be self-sufficient.[4][5]

5. The UK was a net importer of electricity, coal, crude oil and gas in 2010.[6] Our net energy import dependency has been increasing, and is currently at almost 29%,[7] with fossil fuels accounting for the majority.[8] UK domestic production of oil peaked in 1999, and production of gas in 2000. [9] Imports of natural gas increased by almost a third between 2009 and 2010, and in September 2010 imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) surpassed gas imported through pipelines for the first time.[10] Energy independence is not a feasible goal for the UK in the foreseeable future.

6. A balance needs to be struck between developing the security of domestic supplies and maintaining a reliable supply of imports.[11] In achieving this balance, it is important for the UK to not be reliant on a single fuel source: domestic and imported fuel and electricity generation should come from a variety of sources..[12] We examine the resilience of energy sources currently available to the UK in Part Four.

7. The challenge for the UK is how to attract the investment needed in the energy sector to create a more diverse domestic energy mix. If the UK fails to attract sufficient investment, it will be difficult to achieve our targets for cutting emissions and the country may even struggle to produce enough electricity to meet demand. We look at this issue in depth in Part Five.

8. There are also tensions between energy security, climate change policy and energy affordability. For example, the Government's aim of decarbonising the energy system could result in new energy security risks—such as the availability of carbon capture technology, inadequate gas storage capacity and greater intermittency of renewable electricity generation—and ultimately lead to increased bills for consumers. Even so, there are ways of reconciling these three aims, including energy efficiency, that could address concerns about climate change, security and affordability. We examine the threats to energy security in Part Three and how energy efficiency could support energy security in Part Six.

3   Ev w25 Back

4   Ev 148 Back

5   Ev w91 Back

6   DECC, Digest of UK Energy Statistics 2011, Chapter 1 p 12 Back

7   DECC, Digest of UK Energy Statistics 2011, Chapter 1 p 16 Back

8   DECC, Digest of UK Energy Statistics 2011, Chapter 1 p 1 Back

9   Ev 198 Back

10   DECC, Digest of UK Energy Statistics 2011, Chapter 4 p 95 Back

11   Ev w143 Back

12   Ev 112, Ev 121, Ev w21, Ev w25, Ev w32, Ev w36, Ev w52, Ev w55, Ev 139, Ev 144, Ev 148, Ev w70, Ev w79, Ev w83, Ev 164, Ev w91, Ev 170, Ev 180, Ev w105, Ev w143, Ev 211, Ev w148 Back

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© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 25 October 2011