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Durham University

Durham Energy Institute

Impact of Brexit on the UK energy system

In this briefing Durham Energy Institute (DEI) makes an urgent case for the UK Government to focus on energy priorities as part of the Brexit negotiations and decision-making process.

DEI quoted in Select Committee Final report on Brexit (January 2018)

The European Union Select Committee Sub-Committee on EU Energy and Environment published its report on ‘Brexit: energy security’ in January, looking at implications for energy supply, consumer costs and decarbonisation. Durham Energy Institute is quoted several times in the report on questions related to energy security, the Internal Energy Market, research collaboration, policy uncertainty and Euratom. The select committee report concludes that, post-Brexit, the UK may be more vulnerable to energy shortages and asks the Government to set out how it will work with the EU to anticipate and manage such conditions. Find out more about the Inquiry final report. Read the DEI response to EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee inquiry into implications of Brexit for energy security in the UK (Sept 2017).

DEI Brexit Briefing

The DEI is calling for a recognition that the UK is already facing significant threats to the future security of the UK energy system which are likely to be enhanced by the uncertainties of the Brexit process. This statement sets out some key issues the DEI would like policy makers to consider which have significant implications for UK Energy resilience and sustainability, and calls for:

1. A consistent, long-term energy policy must be developed based on an open debate about whether the UK should aim to develop a more independent UK energy sector;

2. Increased investment in research and development for energy storage;

3. Increased emphasis on exploiting indigenous low-carbon energy sources, particularly heat and wind;

4. Incorporation of ambitious energy efficiency and energy demand reduction directives in to UK policy framework

5. A reset and push towards smart-grid development plans; and

6. Measures to safeguard collaborative developments in energy.

Key points:

  • The UK is increasingly reliant on external energy imports and non-UK players in the market. However Brexit has signalled a desire for greater sovereignty. What implications does this have for the UK energy sector? It is essential we have an open debate about how Brexit relates to energy and whether the UK should become more self-sufficient on energy.
  • A long drawn-out Brexit process with little clarity on the direction of energy policy will have a significant impact on investments from the private sector which are so desperately needed if we are to ensure the UK energy system is resilient and fit for the future.
  • Energy supply uncertainty is likely to be exacerbated by the decision to leave the EU. Whatever the final detail of the EU exit terms the UK will be more peripheral to EU energy markets which will mean higher prices and more unreliable supply. Also supply risks will increase around issues such as importing gas through subsea pipelines or electrical interconnectors linking UK to other EU countries.
  • The UK can no longer meet its own heat and power demands with indigenous supply. We are increasingly vulnerable to fluctuations in international supply of oil and gas and even the smallest change in energy imports could have a dramatic effect.
  • Properly exploring and investing in low-carbon indigenous energy sources such as heat networks and offshore wind will help us to meet our climate change and carbon reduction aims while also increasing our resilience in a post-Brexit world.
  • An increasing reliance on gas and renewables for electricity generation requires significant technological development and investment, particularly in the area of energy storage. An improved energy storage capacity will allow us to weather the increased uncertainties we face as a result of our greater reliance on energy imports and will enable us to increase the proportion of renewable generation in our energy mix.
  • Brexit presents an opportunity for us to ensure there is an increased UK policy emphasis on energy efficiency in buildings, industrial machines and electrical products. Significant reductions in energy demand have already been achieved through EU directives on energy efficiency. It is essential we continue and strengthen this commitment.
  • The Brexit process also seriously threatens to undermine efforts to develop a UK smart energy system. Research and technology developments in smart energy rely on stable partnership within the EU and the enhanced policy uncertainty triggered by the process is a further barrier to developing the smart system. This urgently needs to be addressed.
  • Achieving a resilient UK energy sector requires continued research and collaboration with European partners. It is therefore a priority to protect and support collaboration with EU partners on Research & Development and Demonstration projects and to identify ways to minimise the risks and barriers to collaborative working in the post- Brexit era.

Download the full DEI policy statement on 'Impact of Brexit on UK Energy System'