11 April 2023

Energy experts are concerned about the UK’s energy security for winter 2023 following rising energy costs and questions over the continuation of the government’s support package.

The concern echoes industry fears from 2022 before Europe managed to mitigate against the worst of the winter energy crisis due to unseasonably warm weather conditions and effective planning following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Energy security is top of the agenda for the government and private sector. Only 2 Russian gas lines remain open to the European market, posing a potential supply crisis if they close and Europe is hit by a cold snap this winter.

Investing in the creation of a sustainable, self-reliant energy market is the best way to bolster energy security in the UK.

Energy Security in the UK and Europe

Autumn 2022 was a bleak time for policymakers and professionals in the Energy industry. Russia’s restriction of natural gas exports to Europe, coupled with low hydropower output and the shutdown of French nuclear plants, threatened to send Europe’s energy crisis into a freefall.

Europe managed to narrowly avoid a full-blown energy crisis through effective planning and a stroke of luck. The EU agreed to lower its gas consumption by 15% from August 2022 to April 2023, enforcing a range of controls to ensure domestic demand could still be met.

France turned the lights of the Eiffel Tower off early and Germany went on an extensive campaign to reduce energy use in public buildings, including switching off heaters in the entrances, foyers, and corridors of public buildings.

It wasn’t just these proactive measures that allowed Europe to avoid an energy security crisis. Luck played a role as well. Europe experienced its third-warmest autumn since records began, with a milder winter than expected. Domestic users relied on less heating, providing suppliers with a longer period to prepare their storage facilities.

The warmer winter has continued into 2023, an evident consequence of the climate change crisis that is also fuelling concerns for energy security.

Will Winter 2023 Bring an Energy Security Crisis?

With one winter over, experts are now turning their attention to preparing for winter 2023. Europe and the UK appear to be on a better footing than in 2022. The EU has a higher gas storage capacity in February 2023 than in February 2022.

Europe has been able to capitalise on lower global demand but is vulnerable to any sudden uptake. Experts expect that global demand for liquefied natural gas (LNG) will jump during the year due to the growth of the Chinese market. China is expected to see over 5% in growth during 2023 as it moves beyond its zero-Covid policy, and its economy bounces back similarly to Western economies in 2021/2022. Europe was partly able to avoid an energy security crisis in 2022 by capitalising on China’s weak economic performance leading to less global demand.

Another potential unknown for energy security is Russia. The war in Ukraine is leading to soaring energy prices, accelerating the cost-of-living crisis and amplifying calls for a faster transition to renewable energy. Russia is a primary supplier to the global gas market but only began to restrict gas to Europe at the end of 2022. The Nord Stream pipeline also took damage in September 2022.

Continued access to the Russian market enabled European countries to continue to buy in large quantities to fill up their reserves. There are currently only two gas routes remaining from Russia. A cold snap and the closing of these gas supplies could heighten the energy security crisis and leave Europe with an energy shortfall.

A think tank model suggests that a worst-case scenario could see Europe having to reduce its gas demand by over 25% compared to the previous five-year average in the face of low winter temperatures and Russian gas restrictions.

Boosting Energy Security and Green Energy

Concerns around Europe’s energy security have focused minds on accelerating the transition to green energy. Clean energy targets have increased in the last year with record-breaking green energy production, bolstering energy security by reducing the reliance on foreign energy imports.

The war in Ukraine has further emphasised that fossil fuels, particularly gas, cannot be relied upon to ensure energy security. Domestic renewable energy is the best way to achieve net-zero, tackle rising living costs, and achieve a self-reliant clean energy infrastructure that isn’t subject to geopolitical uncertainty. 

The EU has launched its ‘REPowerEU’ policy to establish affordable, secure, and sustainable energy for Europe with a 45% renewable energy goal by 2030. The UK released a similar policy proposal focused on a major acceleration of homegrown power as part of the government’s plan for greater energy independence.

Promoting Energy Security Through Clean Electricity

Energy security is top of the government’s agenda. The current cost-of-living crisis has been fuelled by soaring energy prices caused by the war in Ukraine. The government has identified clean energy as the driving force to achieving energy security in the face of climate change and geopolitical tension.

Grant Shapps, the Secretary of State for the newly created ‘Department for Energy Security and Net Zero’, set out the government’s goals in a speech at Chatham House earlier this month. Energy independence with a self-reliant, sustainable renewable energy industry is essential for delivering energy security.

The government’s priority is to reduce domestic energy bills by reducing wholesale energy prices to provide consumer security. Renewable energy also serves the dual purpose of decarbonisation to meet the UK’s net-zero commitment. Investing in the green energy sector will reduce inflation and boost growth to provide economic security.

Delivering energy security by expanding renewable energy capacity will promote climate, economic, and consumer security. Green Switch Capital is working to bolster the UK’s energy security by establishing a self-reliant and sustainable energy system built on renewable power.

Our land leasing programme is providing thousands of landowners and farmers with passive income and repurposing less desirable land for green energy projects. Investing in renewable energy today is the key to tackling climate change and the cost-of-living crisis. Contact our team today to play your part in creating a greener and safer future for the UK.