The UK section of the North Sea used to be sufficient to supply all of the country’s gas requirements, but now some has to be imported from countries such as Norway. With the cold weather, the usage of gas has increased to record levels and there are now concerns for future supplies, especially if the cold weather returns.
However, the National Grid has said that there isn’t a problem, despite a glitch with a Norwegian gas supply. Gas supplies from various sources have been increased to deal with this record demand. There have been calls for Britain to build more gas storage facilities and the National Grid did issue ‘gas balancing alerts’, asking power firms and other large industries to cut back on their gas consumption. There are suggestions that even if supplies of gas aren’t a problem at the moment, we could see serious shortages in a few years.
Following growing demand for gas supplies, wholesale prices rose, but they did fall again when supplies were increased. Prices of household bills could be affected in the future, but for now, it’s too soon to tell. However, rising prices could spell further trouble for ours and other economies suffering from extreme weather on top of a financial crisis. Economic recovery could be put in jeopardy.
This fear of gas shortages and security of supply has led environmental and business groups to argue that Britain needs to diversify its energy supplies and become less dependent on foreign exports. This issue fits in with the latest developments in new investment in wind turbines.
Who knew that something as beautiful as snow could cause so much trouble and provide so much economic analysis!
National Grid warns of UK gas shortage Guardian, David Teather (5/1/10)
Is the United Kingdom facing a natural gas shortage The Oil Drum (9/1/10)
Wind farms: Generating power and jobs? BBC News (8/1/10)
Gas rationing in -22C Britain increases fears of energy crisis Mail Online, Martina Lees (8/1/10)
Gas usage hits new high in UK cold snap BBC News (8/1/10)
Energy fears over gas and kerosene shortages Scotsman (6/1/10)
Gas shortages highlights firms’ exposure to energy security risks Business Green, Tom Young (8/1/10)
Uh-oh: the return of $3 gas CNN Money, Paul R La Monica (7/1/10)
Natural gas prices seen rising with winter shortages Global Times, Chen Xiaomin (4/1/10)
Gas demand hits record on Thursday Reuters (8/1/10)
Gas demand in UK hits another highBBC News, Hugh Pym (7/1/10)
- Illustrate the effects in the gas market of increasing demand and the resulting shortages. Then show the effects of increasing the supplies of gas. How is equilibrium achieved when there is a shortage in the market?
- Why did energy prices increase and then fall?
- To what extent should the government have been able to forecast this higher demand? Should better contingency plans have been in place?
- The article from CNN Money looks at the effect of rising prices of oil and energy and how this is likely to affect consumer spending. Why could rising prices of these commodities adversely affect economic recovery?
- What is an ‘interruptible contract’ and how useful have they been in dealing with these gas shortages?
- Why has this gas shortage presented environmental groups with an opportunity to promote renewable energy supplies? Think about economic interdependence.
- What alternatives are there to our current gas sources? Are they realistic alternatives?