Europe’s great problem? We simply don’t have a reliable enough power supply

The energy supplies of the UK and Europe have become more fragile for technical reasons – our reliance on wind and other irregular sources – and for political reasons, notably reliance on Russia, writes Hamish McRae

Sunday 03 October 2021 21:30
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<p>The debate over the Nord Stream 2 pipeline centres on whether it makes Europe more or less vulnerable to pressure from Russia </p>

The debate over the Nord Stream 2 pipeline centres on whether it makes Europe more or less vulnerable to pressure from Russia

If we are all going to drive around in electric cars, which we are, we need a reliable electricity supply. We don’t have one. However fast we build alternative sources of power generation, we will still need gas as a standby fuel. We don’t have enough storage capacity for gas. As for nuclear power, there is a multiplicity of troubles in building new stations. It is a mess.

That mess is not confined to the UK. There are some home-grown stupidities, like creating a regulatory structure that has encouraged people with little experience to start up all those little energy suppliers that are going bust. You can understand the motive of wanting to inject more competition into the industry, and we have Ofgem, the regulator, created in 2000, which begins its mission statement: “We work to protect energy consumers, especially vulnerable people, by ensuring they are treated fairly and benefit from a cleaner, greener environment.” That is fine – but actually its main job should surely be to keep the gas flowing and the lights on.

But the mess is more broadly a European one, and indeed a global one. If you travel to some emerging economies, you expect power cuts. That is why so many places have standby generators. But you don’t expect that in the developed world. Here is a snapshot of the problems across Europe.

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