Energy Trilemma’s TV Debate

Monday’s edition of ‘The Editors’ may have been hidden in the twilight of BBC scheduling at 11.20pm on BBC1, but it brought to light a very serious discussion of the energy ‘trilemma’ that’s seemingly impossible to solve: how do we generate affordable, low carbon energy while ensuring security of supply.

If there’s one thing the programme made perfectly clear it’s that there is no easy answer. And there certainly isn’t an answer that can please all the conflicting agendas of Government, energy suppliers, environmentalists, conservationists, nimbies and consumers. What also came across loud and clear, however, is that, while this debate continues to rage on both a local and a national basis, we are slipping closer and closer towards an energy crisis without any co-ordinated plan in place to address it.

The programme featured interviews with a wide cross-section of people, all of whom rely on energy (as we all do) and expressed very valid concerns about a varied range of solutions including renewables, coal-fired power stations, fracking and nuclear. Few suggested solutions amongst their objections and those who did admitted that their proposed response would take a long time to deliver. Carbon capture technology was suggested as a solution to making the low-cost option of coal-fired power more environmentally-viable but the technology is not there yet, let alone the infrastructure. Meanwhile, nuclear energy was also raised as a low carbon, high yield alternative to coal, gas or renewables but, once again, this would take time and money to deliver and is not without its own environmental implications and significant opposition. And when it comes to fracking, the continuity of supply arguments may be compelling and the Government may be keen, however, it seems that scarcely anyone else has much of an appetite for it.

What all of this does, once again, is demonstrate that we have no cohesive plan to address the need to generate reliable, affordable and eco-friendly energy in the UK. And the longer that situation persists, the longer businesses will be exposed to the risk of outages. Standby power is not a long-term solution to the problem either…..but it is a necessary precaution and, for any company or organisation that is operationally reliant on electrical, electronic or data systems, it’s a precaution that needs taking before the lights go out.