What is going to happen to the UK energy system post brexit? There are a number of different areas that could be affected, some more than others.
The first is that of the EU renewable energy targets. The EU has a renewable energy target of 20% (of all energy) for all its member states. The national target varies by country. The UK managed to talk its total down to 15% by 2020. In 2014 renewable energy made up 7% of UK energy production. Surprisingly the EU expect the UK to just fall short of the 15% target by 2020 which is good news. Less good news is we are leaving and the target has pretty much been dumped. I mean have you heard this talked about since June last year or in the GE2017 campaign? In addition all the renewable support has been heavily cut with the exception of renewable heat and off shore wind (of more later). This looks like a casualty of brexit but a lot of the investment is in place and off shore wind is being encouraged for other reasons. So the irony is we may still make this target (more or less). As a passing thought, one surprise of looking at the EU data is renewable heat and cooling makes up over 50% of the renewable energy at present in the EU, not electricity.
Nuclear power. Like most of brexit the full implications were not thought about by anyone and the government is still rushing headlong without pausing towards the exit door. One probable casualty is Euroatom and with it potentially all nuclear power in the UK (which even UKIP love). The European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC or Euratom) is a treaty organisation distinct from the EU but made up of its members. Its something none of us have heard of until recently. It governs the safe use of nuclear power in Europe and the UK government has announced we are leaving. There lies a problem. The treaty covers movement of all nuclear material and the construction of new nuclear reactors and operation of existing ones. It also covers research into new technologies such as ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) and the experimental reactor at Culham. According to those in the know all current operating reactors are at risk plus of course Hinkley C and all the research. As far I am concerned this could be on of the few benefits of brexit. The government of got less than 2 years to sort this out. Meanwhile ground works at Hinkley are continuing apace…
Interconnectors. As noted above off shore wind installation is still powering ahead with plans for controversial off shore wind farms in Scotland sufficient to power 1.4 million homes just legally agreed (after a court case). A whole heap of inter-connectors have been planned with a view to moving excess power around, with one through the channel tunnel under construction. Being cynical I think the government is keen on them since it has severe private doubts (justified) about new nuclear build. The single market makes trading much easier and this includes electricity. Some remoaners reckon the planned inter-connectors are at risk. However, it seems likely that if either we or our neighbours want electricity we will find a way of connecting to each other and selling it.
Industrial production. Access to the EU’s single market has been great for the UK’s economy over the last few decades. Fact. Almost 60% of our trade (including 3rd party countries with which the EU has trade agreements) is with the EU. Siemens is cutting back its investment in its off shore wind turbine production at Hull now only producing for the UK market and not the rest of the EU. But other areas are at risk such as micro-wind production (where the UK dominates) along with wave and tidal (with much R&D going on here). We will need access to the single market and customs union for all our industry.
This quick scoot through UK energy system post brexit shows plenty of problems have emerged from brexit. Whilst I understand why people voted leave I wish they had thought about the full implications. This is going to be so complicated and take a decade or more to fully sort out.