UK drops out of top ten on international energy sector table

The UK has fallen out of the top 10 of a respected international league table of countries’ energy sectors for the first time.

The World Energy Council blamed the government’s “lack of clarity” and “myriad of changes,” which it said have left the country facing a potential gap in energy supply.

The UK has previously been one of the top performers in the council’s “Trillema Index”, which has ranked countries on energy security, costs and decarbonisation efforts for the last six years.

However the Brexit vote, cuts to renewable energy subsidies and planned changes on foreign ownership have created investment uncertainty and significant challenges for the UK, according to the latest edition of the index for the London-headquartered agency, whose members include energy companies across the world.

The UK was also added to a watch list of countries where negative changes are expected imminently, alongside the US, Germany and Japan, while Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland took the top three positive slots in the ranking, with the UK now 11th.

Despite the recent decision to go ahead with new nuclear reactors at Hinkley in Somerset, the UK had a “distinct lack of policy direction”, the council’s chief said.

“Challenges in terms of improving affordability, and delivering security of supply as North Sea assets deplete, coupled with the rundown of worn-out legacy infrastructure, including coal-fired generation, has left the UK with a potential energy gap,” said Joan MacNaughton, executive chair of the council.

“Renewables are increasing as a percentage of the UK energy mix but their output is not yet at a level where energy security can be guaranteed.

“The market knows some of what to expect until 2020 but after this point there are no answers to how the country will finance the low-carbon transition.”

MacNaughton also added that it was not clear if Theresa May’s new government would back the “dash for gas” approach pushed by the former chancellor George Osborne under the last administration, stating that no alternative to gas had been made clear either.

Dr Colin Brown, director of engineering at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, believes that the report confirms that the UK government’s lack of clear energy policy is threatening the country’s future energy security.

“The recent approval of the Hinkley Point C nuclear, while promising, is only part of the solution to the UK securing its low carbon energy requirements for the future.”

A spokesperson for the government emphasised that keeping the lights on is non-negotiable and an absolute priority.

“We do not leave this up to chance, and the measures we have put in place through the capacity market, mean that homes and businesses will continue to have the supplies they need as we build an energy infrastructure fit for the 21st century.

“The UK is a global leader in attracting investment and we are already seeing the fruits from this in our energy infrastructure with more offshore wind, solar energy and nuclear capacity being developed across the country.

“We will continue to work with industry and other key stakeholders to ensure that our future energy supplies remain clean, secure and affordable.”

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