Energy and Energy sources are one of the fundamental corners stones of any modern industrial society. In today's Britain we need electricity as much as we need air in our lungs. The issue is how we make it? Typically there are six main ways of generating electricity; coal burning, oil burning, gas burning, wind, hydro and nuclear.
Traditionally electrical generation in Britain was through the burning of coal, however, due to both the cost of coal on the global market, the closure of many of Britain's coal mines as well as the pollution created when burning a fossil fuel, energy companies were spurned on the look at other more environmentally friendly ways of making electricity. The obvious choice for large scale electrical generation needs was nuclear, but there are inherent risks as was seen in Cumbria in 1957 when the Windscale plant caught fire and allowed radioactive pollution to be released. More recently we have seen a similar issue in Japan when the Fukushima nuclear plant failed following a compromise of its regulating systems, post tsunami.
Oil and gas burning are still very prevalent, although with the increasing price of oil per barrel and the lack of British gas reserves, both are questionable. In the past ten years we have seen a high number of Wind farms being put into place. Although unsightly and fatal for birds being stuck in-flight, these wind generators have met many of the electrical demand peeks seen daily within the British electrical grid, so their existence is at this time is warranted. There is also a high amount of electricity imported from France, whose nuclear power generation is considerable.
The issue facing Britain as with many other European countries is what road do they take moving forward, as it is clear that there is no one glove fits all solution?
The NBU Energy policy suggests that once in Government the NBU would take a structured energy supply approach. Firstly we would look at the reenergising Britain's coal mining activity. Many of the pits have been closed for economic reasons opposed to technical or safety issues. So through a programme of engagement, viable pits would be re-opened, creating employment opportunities. The NBU would also invest in new research and development of coal fired generating, with a view of minimising if not elimination, the pollution aspects seen when burning coal.
The NBU would also push ahead with shale-rock gas extraction processes, referred to as Fracking. Our view is one of caution, but one that accepts that the realism is we as a country need an energy source, so to keep the lights on and in the case of natural gas, the central heating boilers alight. Our strategy would be to run energy extraction programmes, such as fracking in parallel with the development of alternative energy sources, such as refined nuclear and solar.
We are clear that as a modern industrialised country we need stable and sustainable sources of energy. We are also clear that some of the decisions taken will not be popular, but in a world governed by realism, the NBU is clear what it must do so to keep the wheels of Britain turning.