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Running on empty

Where should our energy come from?

Security of the UK's electricity supply is going to be the big issue of the next decade. But so far Britain's politicians appear to be sleepwalking into an energy crisis by increasing our dependence on imported gas.

The reason is clear, engineers argue. The best forecasts suggest that by 2020 gas will provide 68% to 75% of all electricity supplied. Most will be imported from relatively unstable countries where there is a risk that supplies could be cut off.

But engineers agree that gas is not the answer and Britain needs diversity of supply. A recent report for right wing think tank the Adam Smith Institute by professor Michael Laughton, energy adviser to the Royal Academy of Engineering, is clear on the need for a more balanced approach.

'It is essential that Britain's energy policy is reviewed as a matter of urgency with the primary remit of ensuring security of power supplies. Against a programme of retirements of conventional plant, the escalating dependence on imported gas and with intermittent renewables having limited ability to contribute to security, significant questions are raised concerning the increasing vulnerability of the UK electricity supply industry, ' says the report.

The ICE agrees. In its report An engineering commentary on the Energy White Paper it says: 'The most urgent goal of the white paper is reliability and security of supply.

Maintaining access to a wide variety of fuels is the best safeguard to ensure future security.

'Government should establish a strategy which supplies electricity from a mixture of coal, oil, gas and nuclear power stations, while advancing energy conservation and the renewables programme apace.'

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