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Author: Caroline Lockyer - Glenigan utilities sector expert

Many more environmental studies are being taken up following the Government’s recent decision to fast track shale permits, calling on local authorities to decide on shale permits within a 16 week period, it’s also an area the Government are looking to kick start, as Great Britain is really in it’s embryonic stage of shale gas exploration. 

The gas has been around, for quite literally millions of years and it’s a renewable source that is being greatly encouraged by the Government. 

So, down to the nitty gritty, what are we fracking about at?!

Fracking is the process of drilling down into the earth, eventually allowing the shale natural gas to flow out. High pressure equipment is used in fracking, water, sand and chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure. So, is this doing more harm than good?

It’s a natural gas that can be stored within shale basins that will need to be created so the country may hold up to (and beyond) 1.3 quadrillion cubic feet of natural gas. Demand is forecast to double by 2030 (from 2011), so where else could we get our energy. 

Fossil fuels are now a limited option and with subsidies being cut back for solar farms and wind farms, options are also becoming increasingly limited, with us being pointed in certain directions for our energy source. However, no-one wants their country’s gas supply held to ransom or completely cut off, so better we store our own, then, as a country we can be more reliant on ourselves.

But there does seem to be an overly keen approach on shale gas, which probably isn’t a bad thing, as it was only a few months ago the Government appeared to have all their eggs in a nuclear basket. 

Since the 'mothballing' of Hinkley Point C, a surge forward in nuclear seems to have ground to a halt except for  Wylfa C nuclear power station that’s proposed in North Wales, JGC Corporation (Japan) and Bechtel (USA) have been reported as being in exclusive talks with the developers, Hitachi.  The two companies are understood to not be competing for the contractor role, but with a view to becoming a joint venture as the EPC contractor, a role that has been created for this proposal.

So, as future turbines don’t look set to turn, or solar farms look set to soak up the sunshine, could fracking really be the answer, or is it another renewable trend? Energy from waste was getting in full swing from about 2006/2008, then two years later there was round 3 of the Crown Estate leasing the seabed for offshore wind farms. A recent blow to offshore renewables was the rejection of Navitus Bay off the south coast by the Secretary of State for Department of Environment and Climate change. The developers, EDF Energy and Eneco have six weeks to appeal against this decision. 

Conflicting reports were issued in June 2015 as to whether the UK will meet/have met their green energy targets. The Guardian initially reported that the UK, France and the Netherlands could miss their EU renewable energy target. It suggested these three countries, plus Malta and Luxembourg should assess whether their policies and tools are sufficient and effective to meet the target. 

Adopted in 2009, the binding target requires the EU to source 20% of energy from renewables such as wind, solar and biomass by 2020.

Nine days later, in www.carbonbrief.org it states the UK met it’s interim renewable energy target for 2013/14, but what does the future hold with Ministers having to defend their decisions to end support for onshore wind early despite this form of renewable power proving the cheapest. 

The fact is, the UK still remains a long way behind it’s overall target under the EU Renewable Energy Directive. We must source 15% of our energy for heat, transport and power from renewable sources by 2020 and as of 2013, the UK was trailing other EU members. 

In 2010, a broad statement was made in The Guardian saying the UK could be running on 100% renewable energy by 2050. 

The coalition did drive the renewable energy market and did try and protect the consumer from fluctuating fossil prices, however, fossil fuel is not a 'bottomless pit', but in the mix for targets for a cleaner Britain are continuing plans to reduce transport emission, which brings about a few more topical issues about projects in the pipeline. 

High Speed Two for example, instead of taking passengers off the road, why not take the freight?! Get the bigger lorries off the road, there has been a small surge in hybrid car sales, but how happy would the oil companies be about this...

And the debate continues...

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