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UK risks energy future "made by default, not design" - report
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain risks stumbling into an expensive and uncertain energy future propped up by fossil fuels unless the government takes time now to plug policy gaps that are limiting investment in low-carbon forms of generation, a report warns.
Mike Bradshaw, author of a report commissioned by environmental group Friends of the Earth, warns of "multiple failures" in the UK's energy strategy that could derail plans to decarbonise the economy.
"A perfect storm is brewing, with major uncertainty around all the elements of current UK energy policy," Bradshaw said.
"This could delay the low-carbon transition and lead to a continued reliance on fossil fuels - specifically gas, most of which will have been imported," he said.
Britain's dependence on imported gas grew in tandem with falling production from indigenous North Sea fields, becoming a net importer for the first time last year after decades of virtual self-sufficiency.
Seaborne imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) on tankers have soared, particularly from energy-rich regions in the Middle East, exposing the UK's supplies of energy to geopolitical shocks, Bradshaw argues.
"Including the shutting of the Straits of Hormuz limiting LNG exports from Qatar - the main source of UK LNG imports - which could trigger military intervention," he said.
"Coming together these could result into an ever greater reliance of gas, at a time when its price is likely to increase because of growing demand from countries including China and India," Bradshaw said in a report called "Time to take our foot off the gas?"
Bradshaw urges policymakers to focus on homegrown responses to future energy needs that reduce exposures to haphazard global trends impossible to mitigate.
"An assessment of possible energy futures shows that moving to an energy system with the majority of electricity from renewable sources involves the lowest risk of energy security problems," he said.
The report lists a number of weaknesses in UK energy policy deterring investment in low-carbon sources of energy, including contradictory agendas.
UK Chancellor George Osborne has been at loggerheads with the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), headed by energy secretary Ed Davey, over plans to make sharp cuts to renewable subsidies.
Plans to refurbish Britain's nuclear industry, meanwhile, are handicapped by the government's reluctance to set out the exact level of subsidies to plant operators.
"There is no obvious alternative to nuclear to meet our power generation needs except for gas, and the danger is that we may blunder down that road...into a decision made not by design but by default," Bradshaw said.
(Reporting by Oleg Vukmanovic; editing by M.D. Golan)
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