The war in Ukraine has thrown into sharp relief the dangers of dependence on imports of Russian gas, just as the Gulf wars at the turn of the century showed up our over-reliance on Middle East oil. On the surface, renewables offer a way out: away from dependence on dodgy dictators for our economic lifeblood, and towards climate-friendly energy independence. But can we really rely on them for the lion’s share of our energy? What happens when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine?
One answer, of course, could be to massively improve the efficiency with which we use existing energy. Then there are battery banks and ‘green hydrogen’, pumped hydro or compressed air storage, along with all sorts of smart new ‘demand management’ tricks – but these are early stage or (for now) small-scale technologies.
So do we need to ramp up nuclear power? Boost North Sea gas? Revisit fracking? Take a couple of coal-fired plants out of mothballs? Or can we put our faith in a clean, green, energy-efficient future – one which both keeps the lights on and sticks two fingers up to the world’s fossil-fuelled despots?
Harriet Lamb is CEO of Ashden, Mark Lynas is an author, journalist and environmental activist, Nina Skorupska is CEO of the Renewable Energy Association and Martin Wright, former editor of Green Futures, is an environment journalist and photographer.