Another black swan

March 8, 20220

Read OnGen Managing Director, Chris Trigg’s, thoughts on the energy crisis and crisis in Ukraine below. Are renewables the solution? 



When I wrote my blog, “a flock of black swans,” I was not expecting the next Black Swan to arrive so quickly and present such a profound short-term risk. The events in Ukraine are terrifying on every level and represent an enormous threat to our way of life, even if the conflict is confined to Ukraine.

The need for the UK to be energy self-sufficient could not be greater. Whilst the UK’s reliance on Russian gas and oil is relatively limited compared to many European countries, Germany in particular, the sanctions needed to stop the funding for Putin‘s war have already driven gas and oil prices to levels never seen before across the globe.

The failure to invest in new nuclear facilities to provide baseload power makes the UK vulnerable to energy shortages in the short to medium term. However, on-site renewable energy sources in the UK can plug the gap in many cases, particularly when coupled with energy conservation measures.

The UK needs to treat this crisis in the same manner that it faced COVID-19. Mass deployment of on-site renewables, solar, batteries, and onshore wind to create virtual power plants will negate the need for Russian gas. The technology already exists.

Ursula von der Leyen recognised this in a speech to the EU. However, her speech included biomass, which could be misguided given the record increase in fertiliser prices and the reduction in food produced by Ukraine

The UK could be the leader in the generation of green hydrogen, an essential part of the energy mix, particularly for process heat in heavy industry. The UK government and devolved governments must back this technology with the same vigour and determination as they did when it backed the UK’s pharmaceutical industries to find a vaccine for COVID-19.

I never thought I would see the day when I was wrestling with the idea of whether or not the UK should invest in fracking to reduce its reliance on overseas gas. Such a move flies in the face of all we are trying to do to reduce our carbon emissions and protect the environment. If fracking was permitted, it should only be allowed with carbon capture and storage technology and the output must only be allowed to be used in the UK and not traded internationally.

There is no doubt that the action in Ukraine has galvanised NATO members at a time when the organisation seemed to be a divided and underfunded organisation.

My concern is that the level of investment by member countries will significantly increase as a percentage of their GDP. Germany is one of the first countries to announce it will increase its contributions to more than 2% of GDP.

However, 2% of GDP is a fraction of the percentage of the GDP that Russia has spent on its armed forces, which is 11%. If other nations decide to invest at near this level, will this be at the expense of climate change?

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