Hydraulic Fracturing, or ‘Fracking’ for short, has been back in the news a lot lately with many opposing claims in the media about promises of bountiful cheap gas and warnings of dire environmental pollution. There have also been concerns that the industry will compete with renewables drawing government support and private sector investment away from the renewables industry.
The fracking industry does have substantial backing from the British government. There are also views amongst some in government that renewable energy technologies have unnecessary drawbacks in terms of aesthetics and cost, who see fracking as a more reliable alternative. Increased levels of natural gas production have been seen in the United States; however with substantial environmental impacts and at a relatively high economic cost.
However, the two industries – fracking and renewables – need not compete. Although the UK has been able to significantly increase the proportion of electricity generated from renewable sources, it is still predominantly reliant on fossil fuels for electricity production. In addition, part of the UK government’s strategy to reduce carbon emissions has been to encourage the replacement of coal fired power stations with gas. Renewable generation and lower carbon fossil fuels complement one another as part of the energy mix. This – combined with strong regional as well as national support for renewables – means that it is likely both technologies will receive substantial future investment and government support.
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