The week ahead: shale gas, reshoring and renewables

2 min read

News editor

Last Friday saw David Cameron deliver a speech at the World Economic Forum in which he rebuked EU regulations and talked up the policies underpinning Britain’s economic recovery.

He noted that one encouraging factor linked to the upturn in Britain’s fortunes is the trend for companies to reshore (or bring their operations back to the UK), which is exactly what just over a tenth of SMEs have done in the past year.

Numerous factors are at play when it comes to reshoring - a key theme of EEF’s National Manufacturing Conference in March - and Cameron is firmly of the belief that ‘cheap and predictable sources of energy’ is one of them.

‘Yes, we need renewables – these are a vital part of our future,’ said Cameron during his speech in Davos. ‘We need nuclear as part of that energy mix too…But we also need to explore the opportunity represented by shale gas…Just look at what shale gas has done for America…It has reduced industrial gas prices in America to about one quarter of those in Europe and it’s set to create a million more manufacturing jobs as firms build new factories.’

But are untapped shale resources really the energy source that will bring companies back to the UK in droves, and will it take the strain off tired old Tommy Taxpayer’s wallet when it comes to domestic energy bills?

The answer right now is that we simply don’t know, but we do know that offshore wind alone accounts for around 8TWh annually and that this figure, according to the organisers of Integrity of Offshore Wind Structures taking place at Cranfield University on Wednesday, is set to double over the next three years.

A quick glance at the Carbon Trust’s website puts the potential annual revenue of offshore wind at £19bn by 2050. By contrast, the nation’s pub trade generates that figure as GDP right now, with £10bn accounting for tax revenue. Digression aside, events taking place this week will address the very real engineering issues associated with the deployment of renewables, and the issues that need to be addressed in order for shale resources to be exploited across Europe.

IET’s event at Cranfield will look at the capital an operational costs of offshore wind structures, examining how offshore support structures are currently designed and fabricated, then looking at ways in which, with better understanding steel foundations, they might be optimised for cost effective life-cycle operation.

Similarly, RenewableUK’s multifaceted Health and Safety Conference and Exhibition - taking place in Birmingham on Wednesday - has a myriad of strands, one of which will look at industry experience and new safety developments in the offshore wind and marine sector.

Offshore wind farms are being built further out to sea and maintaining them presents the frankly terrifying prospect of having to access installations when waves are at their most unruly. One particular session will address this, and clicking here will show you how industry has helped to address the issue.

The Policy Exchange convenes this Thursday to assess Europe’s potential as a shale player, looking specifically at the USA in terms of its successes, plus concerns brought to the nation in relation to well-publicised environmental concerns.

The Policy Exchange has five points to discuss, namely:

  • What is the potential of shale gas in Europe? What impact will it have on European energy prices? How important will the UK’s resource be in the European context?

  • Can Europe take advantage of its shale resources and still meet its climate obligations?

  • What legislation is needed to ensure that shale gas can be safely exploited without causing local environmental damage?

  • Will people in Europe accept the development of shale gas as they have in the United States?

  • What wider lessons does shale have for how we develop cheap, low carbon technologies?

What do you think? Let us know below.