The current polarisation of the debate in Scotland and the UK is extremely unhelpful. No one form of energy is currently able to meet all our needs all the time. Future solutions are also likely to include the forms of energy we already use. There is also a basic fact which is missed by many. The Scottish and UK Governments rightly have followed a path of ensuring subsidy or price support to lower carbon forms of electricity generation including wind and nuclear through consumer bills. The UK shale gas industry has not received the same support – it is therefore illogical to assume that money spent on shale would displace money spent on renewables. Yes there have been some tax changes, but the UK onshore oil and gas industry is still subject to a corporation tax level far in access of any other sector at 30%.
An expansion of gas in the global energy mix can also facilitate greater use of renewable energy, if policies are in place to support its deployment, given that gas-fired power generation can provide effective back-up to variable output from certain renewable sources. Moreover, lower electricity prices can encourage customer acceptance of a higher component of electricity from renewable sources. Ultimately, the way that renewables retain their appeal, in a gas abundant world, will depend on the resolve of governments.International Energy Agency, 2012