Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Keith Read Chairman of the Chief Executives' Committee of the Engineering Institutions

Energy debate

If nothing else has provoked the government to focus on the energy debate then Russian President Putin's summary price hike in gas supplied to the Ukraine and the subsequent outcry from the European Union certainly has. Whether the EU is culpable in encouraging the Russians to seek more parity in pricing is another issue - what does matter is the increasing awareness of politicians of the vulnerability of future energy supplies to outside political decision making.

Soundings taken at the Chief Executives' Committee of the Engineering Institutions reveal that engineers are not in total consensus, but generally favour a sensible mix of energy sources, including nuclear. The nuclear contribution could rise, perhaps, from the current 20% to, say, 30%.

The future energy mix ought also to drive towards renewables and to incorporate the latest (green) developments in coal and oil technology as well as gas.

As a marine engineer I would strongly support any move towards a great deal more effort and money being put into subsea, tidal research and development - the emptying and filling of the North Sea is a twice a day constant and could fulfil all our foreseeable needs.

But there is a pressing need to look again at the rationale behind the rapid drive for windfarm expansion. Political dogma has led to the dangling of a financial carrot, which has driven expansion of wind power beyond the limits of the technology, of economic return and of environmental acceptability.

The possible development of a new nuclear programme is provoking as much heated discussion among engineers as among others. The Royal Academy of Engineering and The Royal Society produced a combined paper, Nuclear energy - the future climate, published in 1999, which bears revisiting.

Of course there are problems of waste, safety and security.

But one cannot help thinking that if in the last 40 years we had put the same research effort into these problems that we put into the first 40 years of nuclear development, we would have probably solved them by now.

Clear political decision making and leadership are needed, and if nuclear is to be revisited action must be taken in the next few months - the lead times for procurement transcend political cycles.

Diversify? Yes. engineers want two belts and two pairs of braces. But more importantly, whatever the UK's future energy mix is to be, engineers need a political decision and some leadership now.

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Please note comments made online may also be published in the print edition of New Civil Engineer. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.