Enery expert challenges civil engineers

A SUFFOLK energy expert is challenging a claim by civil engineers that the lights could go out in Britain as a result of over-reliance on gas supplied via pipelines from "politically unstable" countries.

A SUFFOLK energy expert is challenging a claim by civil engineers that the lights could go out in Britain as a result of over-reliance on gas supplied via pipelines from "politically unstable" countries.

The report, from the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), suggests the country could be plunged into darkness if these supplies were interrupted – because of a looming lack of diversity of energy sources.

It claims that by 2020 the only nuclear power station still operating in Britain will be Sizewell B and that emission constraints will have led to the closure of coal-fired power stations.

Initially, it says, some gas supplies will come from Norway but the report claims this source will dry up in the 2020s because of increasing demand from the whole of Europe.


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This, it says, will leave Britain heavily reliant on imported gas from "politically unstable" countries in West Africa, the Middle East and the former Soviet Union.

But Professor Peter Odell, who lives in Ipswich and is special adviser to a House of Commons Select Committee on security of gas supplies, said the Norwegian gas fields were likely to last much longer than the 2020s.

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He also pointed out that there had been no interruption in gas supplies to western Europe from allegedly "unstable" countries - including Algeria and some of the Russian republics - during the past 30 years.

"The Norwegian energy minister said recently his country's supplies would last another 100 years. He may be exaggerating a little but there is no doubt supplies will last longer than the 2020s," Prof Odell said.

"Europe already receives 300 billion cubic metres a year of Russian gas and this is likely to double in the foreseeable future.

"Algeria also supplies Europe from a pipeline which has its source in the Sahara – away from the troubled areas – and there are plans for more pipelines from this country and from eastern Europe," he added.

However, Professor Odell said he agreed with the thrust of the ICE report that a diversity of energy supply was needed to safeguard security of supply, together with greater fuel storage facilities.

The ICE report calls for a mix of energy sources to include nuclear.

But Prof. Odell there was no need at present to consider building any further nuclear power stations, the economics of which were currently poor.

Andy Cowburn, ICE's East Anglia chairman, said the Government had failed to invest in maintaining and upgrading Britain's nuclear power programme or invest in viable alternatives.

"At present, renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and wave can only provide a fraction of the total requirement but they could help fill the gap if they are positively promoted now," he added.

david.green@eadt.co.uk

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