Influencing the UK’s energy security and the future role of gas

31 July 2018

Introduction and Underpinning Research

Professor Mike Bradshaw’s research has shown that falling domestic gas production, coupled with limited storage capacity, in the UK, has resulted in a reliance and dependency on importing gas supplies from other countries. A reliance on imported gas leaves the UK vulnerable and exposed to the volatility of the wider European and global gas markets and to the infrastructures supporting the import and transport of supply. The impending departure of Britain from the European Union is likely to make the European gas market even more delicate, with import and interconnector regulations largely unclear. Natural gas plays a critical role in the UK’s energy system, providing twice as much energy as electricity. The secure and affordable supply of natural gas is therefore an essential element of UK energy security and a key objective of Government policy.

Furthermore, Professor Bradshaw’s research has demonstrated that the Climate Change Act (2008), and its associated carbon budgets/targets, will act as a major constraint on the future role of gas in the UK. The uncertainty about the future scale of gas demand and its role in the UK's energy system has catalysed investments in new gas fired power generation and its associated infrastructure, such as Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technologies.

Engagement and Dissemination Activities

The body of research was supported by The UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) funding and has been presented and discussed with a wide range of stakeholders receiving much media attention. In government, Professor Bradshaw and colleagues have held meetings and discussions with 10 Downing Street (David Cameron's Energy Adviser), and the Cabinet Office, the Department for Business Innovation & Skills, the Department of Energy & Climate Change (now Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy; BEIS) and the Foreign Office. This engagement has informed Government opinion on the future of gas security in the UK.

In 2017, Professor Bradshaw convened the UK Gas Security Forum of policymakers, think tanks, academics and representatives from industry to discuss the challenges facing UK gas security and the possible impacts of Brexit. The Forum builds on Professor Bradshaw’s previous research on the UK’s Global Gas Challenge, funded by the UKERC.

The Forum has co-produced three briefing papers based on discussions at each of their three meetings in Autumn 2017, hosted by Warwick Business School and UKERC. The first focuses on challenges to the upstream security of supply – where gas comes from. The second considers midstream security challenges – the critical infrastructures that are necessary to link gas suppliers to end users – and the third explores the future role of gas, considering factors such as increasing demand for low-carbon and renewable energy sources.

In addition, the Forum held a day-long conference in early 2018 'Brexit and future UK gas security', which fed into a final report on Future UK Gas Security. The report examines the potential impact of Brexit on the future of UK gas security and identifies key issues that should be addressed in a post-Brexit ‘UK Gas Security Strategy’.

Instrumental Impact

Professor Bradshaw Chairs’ the BEIS (formally DECC) Fossil Fuels Price Projection Expert Panel, leading the production of reports in 2016 and 2017, and his position has been extended for another two years. He has provided evidence to Parliamentary Select Committees on shale gas and the prospect for Artic oil and gas development. The Cabinet Office, in reference to Artic oil and Russian energy relations, used the research to help shape assessment of UK gas security and ultimately to support Government policy. The research has also informed the debate and discussions surrounding shale gas and fracking and has been used by lobby groups, such as Friends of the Earth. Ongoing work on the future of UK gas security explores the upstream challenges, midstream infrastructures and takes account of the future demand for gas in the UK and this recent work is likely to further influence and inform ongoing debate and discussions. In addition to the UKERC policy briefings, this research has been recently published in Energy Policy journal.

Research will continue with a new research grant funded by Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and Economic and Social Research Councils (ESRC) to assess and monitor the UK Shale Gas Landscape under the unconventional hydrocarbons scheme. NERC and ESRC recognise that unconventional hydrocarbon extraction is a complex issue requiring a holistic approach, encompassing knowledge from both the environmental and social sciences. Seven multi-institution consortium projects will be funded and will commence in summer 2018. Read more about this project here.

References to the research

Research reports and briefings with UKERC

The future role of natural gas in the UK
The UK’s Global gas challenge
A bridge to a low-carbon future? Modelling the long-term Global potential of natural gas

Reports co-produced with the UK Gas Security Forum 

Future UK Gas Security: Upstream Security of Supply
Future UK Gas Security: Midstream Infrastructure
Future UK Gas Security: The Future Role of Gas?

Bradshaw, M. (2018) Future UK Gas Security: A Position Paper. Warwick Business School.

Policy Reports 

BEIS Fossil Fuel Price Assumptions (2017)

Journal Articles 

Bradshaw, M. J. and Waite, C. (2017) "Learning from Lancashire: the contours of the UK shale gas conflict", Global Environmental Change, 47, 28-36. 

McGlade, C., Pye, S., Ekins, P., Bradshaw, M. J. and Watson, J. (2018) "The future role of natural gas in the UK : a bridge to nowhere?", Energy Policy, 113, 454-465

Selected Blogs

Professor Bradshaw has authored a blog covering the uncertainty surrounding the future demand for gas in the UK, and is available here: https://theconversation.com/extreme-weather-tests-uk-gas-security-to-the-limit-92698

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