Saturday 7 September 2013

Shale and renewable energy

In a recent post I pointed out the role that domestic shale gas production can play in moving towards a greener energy system, and suggested that the exchequer should ring-fence a portion of the taxes resulting from shale development to be spent on alternative energy research and development (improved renewable tech, next gen nuclear, and energy efficiency). I'm not the only UK geoscientist to come to this conclusion - if you enjoy FrackLand then I highly recommend that you also follow, a new blog by Paul Glover, a Professor of Petrophsics at Leeds Uni.

My hope is that more UK academics start to realise the vital role they need to play in the current shale gas debate. Gasandgaiters has come to a very similar conclusion about the implications for shale development and renewables for the UK.

I think this point is made most succinctly, however, by those involved in the renewable energy business themselves - do they see shale gas as a help or a hindrance? The remainder of this post is borrowed from Energy in Depth (this post in particular). This is an gas-industry-sponsored website, so is unsurprisingly pro-gas-industry. As such, I try to avoid linking to it too much. In this case, however, the pertinent quotes are from leaders in the renewables industry, collated by EID.

Focusing on Texas, a renewables boom as gone hand-in-hand with the shale gas boom, as reported in the Scientific American. Quoting EID:
A report released today by the Texas Clean Energy Coalition has reconfirmed that natural gas and renewables “are complementary, not competing, resources.” The study, compiled by economists with the Brattle Group, analyzed the short and long term relationship between natural gas and renewable resources in the Texas electricity market – and what they found was a “win-win for Texas and the environment.” Texas provided 28 percent of all U.S. marketed natural gas production in 2011, while leading the nation in installed wind generation capacity.  Combined, these resources are providing clean, reliable, and affordable power for Texas consumers. Yet while wind energy provides 96 percent of renewable generation in the state, the overall output is not controllable and at times is ill-matched with electricity market demand. The ability of natural gas to quickly ramp up and down and to provide intermittent output makes it an ideal, complementary match to wind output.
Rhone Resch is the chief of the US Solar Energy Industries Association. ClimateDesk reports:
'Natural gas and renewables complement each other very nicely,' Rhone Resch, CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, said this morning at a press conference for the release of Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s 2013 Factbook, an exhaustive analysis of the state of clean energy in America.
The report, based on a blend of original and existing government research, is unequivocal in placing natural gas in the same ‘clean energy’ boat as renewables, a new arrangement Resch and Dave McCurdy, head of the American Gas Association, agreed they were happy to see. 'Natural gas can fill the gap when renewables go intermittant,' he said, 'ramping up when the wind stops or the sun goes down.'
Studies from MIT have shown how shale gas development can free up resources to invest in renewables. This is the view taken by US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports the director-general of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) as stating:
Shale gas at low cost can help to create a hybrid system,’ whereby more gas-fired power is fed to the grid, supplanting coal, and augmented by wind and solar.
The success or otherwise of renewables in the UK will depend principally whether the political willpower is there to continue to support them. I hope the government continues to show that it will develop renewable energy systems. The extraction of domestic shale gas will support, not hinder, this development. 

Update (10/09/2013): It seems that I timed this blog rather nicely. Yesterday, in a speech to the Royal Society, DECC Minister Ed Davey, outlined the future role of UK shale development. This is backed up by a new government report describing how shale gas development fits in with the UK's plans to develop renewable energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.



  1. Hi James, good post. I've been banging on about shale gas as a companion to renewables for a while now - and not just in the abstract, but with real examples like this:

  2. Oil shale is becoming a useful resource that offers hope as new energy source. It is the energy of natural gas from shale formation. As we are running out of natural resources we have to find alternative energy resources for a better future.

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  3. Hey informative post and thanks for sharing it.

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