Is the UK going to run out of gas in next 36 hours?
Posted by: Vincent Wilkins: 23/03/2013
Well the Daily Mail for one would have you believe this is the case. Headlines like this are always welcome by Biomass installers like ourselves, hopefully giving us a much needed boost while the government continues to dither and stall on announcing the introduction of Phase two of the Renewable Heat Incentive and its launch date. Which if what’s being reported on ‘Linked In’ last week is true it may not be launched until the start of 2014.
Daily Mail headlines aside I've been taking a look at what else is being reported in the news to find out if Gas supplies really are going to run out in the next 36 hours or is the whole situation being blown out of proportion.
A temporary and unexpected shut down of a major UK to Belgium pipeline pushed up wholesale gas prices sharply by 50% yesterday. At the start of the winter the government insures that gas supplies are plentiful to see us through the colder months, over the course of the winter these supplies naturally dwindle, but this is the way the system has been designed. The recent freak weather and the pipeline issue serve as a reminder of how dependent we are on other countries for our energy and how little gas we have in store when things go wrong. Gas reserves are already at a critically low level as households have turned up the heating because of the unseasonably cold weather in recent weeks, pushing demand 20 per cent higher than normal.
Speaking on radio 4 over the weekend former minister of state for Energy Charles Hendry said that ministers do get nervous about adequacy of supplies during the winter months and that in his previous position he would be checking supplies anxiously on a daily basis but he also added that the headlines are misleading and that there are a range of other places from which we can draw supplies and consumers should not worry unduly.
External pressures for example War in the Middle East, dispute between Russia and the Ukraine and pipe line problems from Norway are the types of things we can’t plan for he added and that it was inevitable at this point in the year that gas supplies are down and we mustn't create a national panic about it. However Nick Butler advisor to Lord Brown (former executive at BP) responded by saying this was an unnecessary crisis that if we put in as much storage as Germany and France who have a 100 days storage compared to our 20 days worth of storage capacity, this would be a step in the right direction in assuring sufficient supplies and a step towards a degree of energy security. Mr Hendry admitted that storage capacity wasn't as good as it could be but there was a price to be paid for increasing storage capacity and this would inevitably be passed on to consumers.
Britain is more vulnerable than the rest of Europe to gas shortages because it has historically relied on the North Sea, where production is now dwindling and if we don’t expand domestic gas production, we could be left exposed to potential supply shortages and more volatile prices. It’s likely that the shortfall could push up the long-term price of gas and result in household tariffs rising by up to 15 per cent before next winter, adding more than £200 on to family bills, analysts warned.
Whilst I can’t tell you if we are going to be plunged into darkness and cold in the next few days as the daily mail would have us believe one thing is certain the past few days serves as a reminder to us all that the volatility of the energy markets and the possibility of blackouts and gas rations are very real. Consumers do have a choice from this volatility with a Biomass Boiler. You can find out more about renewable heating options like Biomass by downloading our heating guide or getting in touch with us to speak to one of our renewable Heating experts.