UK faces questions about power supply security following Brexit and the Russia-Ukraine crisis

Source: press release, 29 April 2022

UK’s annual electricity import and export, 2000-2021 (source: GlobalData, Power Intelligence Center)
UK’s annual electricity import and export, 2000-2021 (source: GlobalData, Power Intelligence Center)

As a result of Brexit and its reliance on imports from the common EU market, the UK is now facing questions regarding higher energy prices and an unreliable supply of electricity. To combat this, the government needs to make substantial investments to meet more of its electricity demands by using renewable sources, observes GlobalData, a data and analytics company.

Attaurrahman Ojindaram Saibasan, Power Analyst at GlobalData, says, “The UK generates power from a diverse range of sources, including coal, gas, oil, hydropower, renewables, and nuclear power. Thermal power is its main source of power generation and gas-fired power plants constitute most of its thermal capacity. The UK is actively involved in power exchanges with several European countries, although in more recent years this has been characterised by a rather unsteady power import pattern.”

According to GlobalData’s recent report, United Kingdom Power Market Size, Trends, Regulations, Competitive Landscape and Forecast, 2022-2035, the recent Russia-Ukraine conflict raised questions on the reliability of imports. Although the UK does not rely heavily on Russia for its gas imports, it is not immune to the high prices caused by the conflict. Moreover, the UK has imposed sanctions on Russia, which will leave a gap that renewables will most likely fill. As per the UK’s Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), the energy bills in the country could rise to GBP 2,520 (EUR 3,000) in October 2022, a GBP 505 (EUR 600) increase from previously expected levels as an impact of the Russia-Ukraine crisis.

Saibasan continues, “The UK government is committed to increasing the share of renewables in its energy mix and is introducing new policies and partnering up with private entities to drive the growth of renewable power in the electricity sector. In 2021, renewable power generation held a 39.4% share in the total power generation of the country, increasing from a 6.2% share in 2010. The introduction of the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) and plans to increase renewable power capacity is also expected to create more opportunities in this sector.”

Recently, 1,300 trillion cubic feet of shale gas reserves were discovered in the north of England. Before this discovery, it had been estimated that shale gas would constitute 76% of the UK’s energy imports in 2030, but following the discovery of the gas reserves, this was revised to 37%. Shale gas is expected to extend the UK’s natural energy supply by 50 to 100 years at the current consumption rate. The shale gas industry is currently in the beginning stages in the UK, and the government is preparing tax breaks and incentives to attract investment in this sector.