Miss Emily Cox, University of Sussex
In order to meet legislative targets for mitigating climate change, future energy systems will need to become secure, affordable and low-carbon – the so-called ‘trilemma’ of sustainable energy policy (Boston 2013). In the UK, the trilemma has received growing attention as energy security concerns rise up the political and public agenda, driven by declining indigenous fossil fuel reserves and increasing concerns over anthropogenic climate change (DECC 2012; MacKerron 2009; Winstone et al 2007). As part of a growing body of research into energy security and low-carbon energy transitions, this project seeks to assess the future security of the UK electricity system in a low-carbon context. A new 10-indicator framework for security of both supply and demand has been developed with the specific aim of making projections of the security of a low-carbon electricity system. Drawing upon recent research recommendations, the framework utilises a ‘dashboard’ approach to security analysis which is capable of identifying potential red flags for the future security of a low-carbon electricity system (Mitchell et al 2013). The project seeks to emphasise the importance of timescales of reference when addressing energy systems, and thus focuses on assessing both short-term ‘shocks’ and long-term ‘stresses’ to the electricity system (Boston 2013; Energy and Climate Change Committee 2011; Soutar and Whiting 2013). As such, the future security of the UK electricity system is assessed under four key themes: Availability (long-term), Reliability (short-term), Affordability, and Sustainability.
The framework has been applied to a set of three transition pathways, all of which aim to reduce carbon emissions from the UK electricity sector by 80% by 2050. The three transition pathways have been chosen to reflect the importance of the overriding governance logic and normative goals which could lead the UK down different energy pathways. One pathway envisages deregulation and market-centrism, one envisages large-scale centralised control, and the third pathway envisages a decentralised, small-scale electricity system controlled by civil society and consumers. As such, the analysis seeks to compare the future security of some of these contrasting governance options, in an attempt to flag up areas of concern and to highlight the major trade-offs which may emerge when seeking to balance security, affordability and carbon goals in energy policy.
This presentation will introduce this new methodology for assessing low-carbon electricity security. Results from the empirical analysis and currently ongoing, but will be available for the presentation, along with initial conclusions and recommendations for UK energy policy. Additionally, the presentation will introduce plans for the next stage of the research, which will use the results from the security analysis as the basis for an in-depth analysis of energy security policy-making, and the ways in which multiple competing interests and preferences act to influence policy outputs.
Key words: energy security; electricity; energy trilemma; low-carbon transition pathways
Boston, A. (2013) Delivering a secure energy supply on a low-carbon pathway. Energy Policy, Vol. 52: 55-59
DECC (2012) Energy Security Strategy. Department of Energy and Climate Change, London
Energy and Climate Change Committee (2011) UK energy supply: security or independence? UK Energy and Climate Change Committee, London
MacKerron, G. (2009) Lessons from the UK on urgency and legitimacy in energy policymaking. In: I. Scrase and G. MacKerron (Eds.), Energy for the Future. Palgrave MacMillan, Basingstoke
Mitchell, C., Watson, J. and Whiting, J. (2013) New challenges in energy security: the UK in a multipolar world. Palgrave MacMillan, Basingstoke
Winstone, R., Bolton, P. and Gore, D. (2011) Energy security. House of Commons research paper, no. 07/42. Houses of Parliament, LondonCox-Assessing-the-future-security-of-the-UK-electricity-system.pdf 1.07 MB