High Energy Football

“Some people believe football is a matter of life and death……I can assure you it is much, much more important than that”.

Even if you don’t agree with Bill Shankly’s famous quote, football can often act as a microcosm for topics of greater consequence.

Whether it is the belated introduction of technology to aid match officials or the shortcomings of the England team, the seemingly endless analysis and heated debate usually fails to reach a consensus or definitive conclusion.

As the World Cup is proving – it’s all about perspective, opinion and technology!

Of course, this is also true of more serious subjects such as climate change, for example. Despite the weight of scientific evidence, there continue to be many dissenting voices disputing the effect and extent of man’s activities on the Earth’s climate system.

The debate over climate change is intrinsically linked to the subject of energy security – that is, the association between the availability of natural resources for energy consumption and a nation’s security – with access to cheap energy being seen as essential to the functioning of modern economies. Cheap, reliable energy fuels the nation’s economic engine and without a secure source of cheap energy countries become particularly vulnerable.

Much like half-time football analysis, the subject throws up a tangled web of opinions, arguments, reports and counter reports which, whilst informative can also serve to cloud the issue. As fast as one report is published claiming one thing, another appears which presents an all together different case.

In 2013 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated that one of the largest drivers of global warming was that of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel combustion – the others being cement production and changes in land use such as deforestation.

Although there is concern over the continued use of fossil fuels and the damaging effect this has on the environment, there is also anxiety about the reserves of traditional sources of these fuels. A recent report from the Global Sustainable Institute (GSI) claims that UK reserves of oil would only last another 5.2 years; that current coal supplies would last 4.5 years; and that we would run out of gas in a mere three years!

DECC (the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change) dismissed the report as “nonsense”. Certainly, the view that doing nothing leaves the nation’s energy security to the whim of a foreign power may be alarmist, but it is, nevertheless, a sobering prospect for the UK to become even more dependent upon the fuel reserves of Qatar and Russia, especially having regard to some of the current geo-political issues. The prognosis for energy and fuel prices, which have already risen substantially in the last decade since the UK became a net importer of gas, is unlikely to look too good against this backdrop. In fact, most scenarios, including some of DECC’s own forecasts, predict significant rises over the next decade. The potential scope for further increases should not really come as a surprise, however, given that UK domestic gas prices are around 19% below the EU median and around half of the price in Sweden – which imports all its gas. Another sobering thought for those individuals and businesses already struggling to pay bills.

The fact that the requirement for cheap and reliable energy is intrinsically linked with modern, successful economies makes energy security of considerable importance to policy makers. One therefore might be entitled to ask how, knowing for so long it was coming, is it possible that the UK faces the real and imminent prospect of the lights going out? So acute is the concern about the dwindling capacity margin that the industrial engine of the economy is being paid by the taxpayer to use less energy this winter. Clearly not a policy designed to boost exports! There are a myriad of metaphors with the beautiful game that one can think of. Some commentators argue that energy policy itself has been something of a political football. Others point out that a failure to plan is tantamount to planning to fail. However, when it comes to something as critical as energy are we not entitled to expect better?

On a global scale, political instability of energy producing countries, manipulation of energy supplies, and competition over energy resources resulting from the increasing industrialisation of countries such as China and India, as well as terrorism, accidents and natural disasters, all have a serious impact upon the world’s energy security. For example, with Iraq seemingly in chaos, oil prices have surged to a nine-month high as the threat of disrupted supplies panics the markets.

A new report from the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), however, takes a different view to that of the GSI with regards to the threat that over-dependence on fossil fuel imports may pose.

The report argues that the energy marketplace is sufficiently robust and flexible to withstand supply shocks and points to the fact that energy embargoes are seldom successful, especially given the stockpiles of fossil fuels amassed by major countries. Moreover, the discovery of less conventional supplies of oil and gas will lessen dependence upon Russia and North Africa in the future.

In making that argument the GWPF implies that renewables such as wind and solar energy pose more of a threat to the UK’s energy security than dwindling traditionally extracted fossil fuel resources and dependency upon imports. Whilst the effectiveness and impact of wind and solar energy in particular locations is continually debated, the expanded use of renewable energy technology in all its forms can only increase the diversity of electricity supply available and, through local generation, provide a flexibility to the system to help it resist central shocks, thereby having a positive impact upon energy security. Furthermore, far from having a negative long term impact on prices, they will actually guard against future price increases particularly of imported gas.

Whilst in the short term subsidies will contribute to price increases, although generally by less than is widely understood, their relative impact going forward will diminish. The subsidies are designed to enable technologies to overcome adoption barriers. As the technologies are more widely adopted so the support is correspondingly reduced. Take solar PV as an example. The subsidy for new installations has been progressively cut to around 30% of the original rate as the technology has seen wide adoption and its production costs have fallen considerably.

APP’s Gasplasma® process may not be the sole means of achieving total energy security for the UK and other territories but as a proven technology making use of waste in an efficient and environmentally sound manner it can help guarantee new low carbon power for this and future generations.

After years of development, the Gasplasma® process is a proven performer ready for the first team. It is surely time to maximise the technology’s potential and make it a key player in the energy mix.

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