Memorandum submitted by Friends of the
Friends of the Earth primarily approaches the question
of whether shale gas is a good or bad energy supply option to
exploit from a climate change perspective, although we recognise
that there are other important considerations, such as groundwater
pollution from the chemicals associated with hydraulic fracturing.
In December we published research(i) into
global carbon budgets that identified that 1,100 GtCO2e
is the size of a global carbon budgets for a 70% chance of avoiding
a global average temperature increase of two degrees or more.
If this budget is to be shared equally between nations based
on average population between now and 2050 then the UK would need
to reduce emissions by 80% by 2030 from 1990 levels, the EU by
83% and the USA by 95%. China would need to peak its emissions
by 2013 and then decline by 5% per annum. These reductions rates
assume no "negative emissions" or other geoengineering
techniques are deployed, which is clearly an issue for debate.
The implication of our research is that we need a very fast transition
away from a fossil fuel based economy towards a low carbon economy.
It is within this context that we judge the utility or otherwise
of shale gas.
We are aware from research by Chatham House that
there are in theory very substantial reserves of shale gas, far
greater than conventional gas.(ii) Although the majority
of this is in North America, Middle-East and China the quantities
in Western Europe are not insignificant and may be greater than
proven reserves of conventional gas. As the Chatham House report
makes clear, shale gas has the potential to be a "game changer"
by opening up huge new sources of gas but whether and how much
of the potential can be realised is not yet clear.
Friends of the Earth has concerns about the exploitation
of these resources.
- Large amounts of shale gas could undermine investment
in renewable energy in the UK and elsewhere. The UK has a 2020
target for renewable energy but no targets after 2020. Investors
could be very nervous of investing significant money in offshore
wind or other renewable power projects if it is not clear that
there will be a guaranteed market for the energy after 2020.
- The Government's draft National Policy Statements
say there is only need for 18 GW of new non-renewable capacity.
But there is however at least 14 GW of new gas either with consent,
being built or in the pre-Infrastructure Planning Control (IPC)
regime. On top of that there is already 20 GW of gas and nuclear
applications in the current IPC system. This is 34 GW - way over
the "needed" 18 GW, and a potential massive over-supply,
which is likely to come at the expense of renewables. Gas is already
threatening renewables investment, even before shale gas is considered.
- If the Government intends renewable energy to
play a significant role in meeting its Climate Change Act obligations,
and if it wants to build a world leading marine renewables industry,
then it needs to set out clear expectations for offshore wind
and other renewables over the next 30 years, and clear policies
to ensure it is not swamped by investment in other types of capacity.
It also needs to put in place the appropriate long-term support
framework to enable investor confidence. A well-funded Green Investment
Bank is a clear priority.
- Friends of the Earth recognises that available
data suggests that the carbon footprint of shale gas is smaller
than that of coal used in electricity production, although it
is higher than that of conventional gas.(iii) Therefore
if shale gas was to displace existing coal electricity generation
then there would be a net carbon reduction. However, as some coal
is being displaced anyway via the LCPD, new shale gas would more
than likely be displacing other types of electricity generation
such as renewables.
- The emissions reduction rates required to meet
the Climate Change Act are very significant. The Committee on
Climate Change has suggested that the carbon intensity of electricity
generation should be reduced to 50gCO2/KWh. The Government
has said that any emissions performance standard would apply to
coal-fired power stations and not to gas. Without a clear policy
requirement to achieve the 50gCO2/KWh target there
is a risk that shale gas exploitation could lead to the development
of many more gas-fired power plants and jeopardise the meeting
of the target recommended by the Committee on Climate
Friends of the Earth therefore recommends that the
Government put in place the following policies before any shale
gas projects are considered:
Within its National Policy Statements:
- Accept the Committee on Climate Change recommendation
that electricity generation by 2030 must have a carbon intensity
of no greater than 50gCO2/KWh.
- Set a limit for GW of consented new fossil fuel-fired
generation compatible with this target.
- Provide a clear expectations for renewable energy
generation in 2025, 2030 and 2040.
- Rule out all new coal-fired power stations regardless
of whether they have CCS, and set a date for the closure of existing
- Within its Market Reform work:
- Put the 2030 decarbonisation target centre-stage
- Put in place the appropriate long-term support
framework to build investor confidence in renewables
- Put in place a stronger Emissions Performance
Standard to cover gas-fired power plants at a date necessary to
achieve the 50gCO2/KWh target.
Once these policy measures are clear then the role
of gas in future energy needs will be clearer. Shale gas should
only be part of the supply if need is clearly proven and if extraction
can meet high environmental standards, such as no contamination
of groundwater and low local environmental impacts. Until then
there should be a presumption against shale gas exploitation.
(i) Friends of the
Earth (2010), Reckless Gamblers: how politicians' inaction is
ramping up the risk of dangerous climate change.
(ii) Stevens (2010),
The shale gas revolution: hype or reality, Chatham House.
(iii) Tyndall Centre,
University of Manchester (2011), Shale gas, a provisional assessment
of climate change and environmental impacts.