Shale gas is not a renewable source of energy. However, we agree that it is important to invest in renewable sources of energy. Investment in shale gas does not come at the expense of investment in renewable energy and it’s not a case of one or the other.
Most experts believe that the UK should have a mix of energy sources but should do more to reduce carbon emissions1. In 2013, renewables accounted for just over 5% of the UK’s overall energy – including heating, transport and electricity – so natural gas will still be needed for some time as the share of renewables grows2.
Stephen Tindale, the former director of Greenpeace, said in May 2014 that climate campaigners should support fracking for shale gas. He says that the reason for this is that the use of shale gas would enable the UK to reduce the burning of coal.3
In a 2012 report, energy analysts at the international investment bank Citigroup questioned assumptions that gas and renewables will compete with each other. They said that the shale gas industry will actually be dependent on the broader use of wind and solar for its future. That’s because gas will be priced out of the conventional and coal-dominated market in the short term, but will then be required to fill in the gaps as wind and solar are used more widely, and coal generation is shut down.4
Professor Richard Selley from Imperial College London said: “Renewable energy, solar, wind and batteries for hybrid cars, etc. all use rare earth minerals. 80% of the world’s supply comes from Northern Mongolia from two huge opencast mines that can be seen from space satellites. These minerals are mined, refined, and shipped all around the world. Some of the elements used in renewables, such as cadmium, are so toxic that when no longer used, have to be disposed of in a manner akin to nuclear waste disposal. Furthermore, 80% of the UK’s homes have access to gas for cooking and heating. To switch to using electricity from the renewable energy sources would necessitate reconfiguring the National Power Grid at crippling expense.”
2 DECC, DUKES 2014, Chapter 6 https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/337684/chapter_6.pdf (“Progress has been made against the UK’s 15 per cent target introduced in the 2009 EU Renewable Directive. Using the methodology set out in the Directive, provisional calculations show that 5.2 per cent of energy consumption in 2013 came from renewable sources; this is up from 4.2 per cent in 2012.”)
5 US Energy Information Administration, Electric Power Monthly, September 2014, Table 1.1.A. Net Generation from Renewable Sources: Total (All Sectors), 2004-July 2014 http://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/epm_table_grapher.cfm?t=epmt_1_1_a