My energy firm is bust: we needed more ‘Rough’

“It’s always good to have a takeaway or two in the freezer for when you don’t have the energy to cook or have an unexpected guest. ”
Photo by Alan Hardman on Unsplash

Sadly, my energy provider has gone bust, It was Pure Planet, a 100% green energy provider. It’s the 13th Energy provider to go broke. I have been switched to Shell. 

Another provider serving 1.7 million is also reported to be in financial difficulties.

Some of these firms might have survived if the UK had invested to keep open the ‘Rough’ gas storage facility. The government says the energy crisis is not their fault, however a failure to invest in this storage capacity has in short crippled the country and left us vulnerable to volatility on international energy markets

Rainy Day fund:

It’s always prudent to always have a bit of cash stashed away for emergencies or to save a few days of your annual holidays for unplanned last-minute breaks. Or perhaps to have a takeaway or two in the freezer for when you don’t have the energy to cook or have an unexpected guest. 

Likewise, we expect our government of 11 years to have the facilities to store gas. Whilst the nation holds an emergency 90 days supply of oil, we have virtually no gas storage.

So, what and where is ‘Rough’ and why was it so important

The ‘Rough’ gas field was originally developed and operated by British Gas. Production started in 1976, and in 1985 following assessment of the reservoir’s potential, the field was converted to a gas storage facility. Gas from the National Transmission System (NTS) was injected into the reservoir at times of low demand (e.g. summer) and the gas was then used at periods of high demand during the winter time. It was able to supply approximately 10% of the nation’s daily gas usage

It’s located about 35 Km off the East coast just north of Easington in Humberside but it was allowed to close in 2017 on economic grounds. Completely sealed by impervious stone, the sponge-like formation is 3,000 times the size of the Wembley pitch. It was a perfect site for gas storage but it is not being used now. Plans are afoot to re-open it for hydrogen storage.

The UK typically has about  4-5 winter days’ supply in storage compared to months for other European countries

Why did ‘Rough’ matter so much

When it was in use the UK had massive reserves and gas was stored at summer prices with additional supplies coming in at higher prices over the winter period. Thus the blended price was lower.

Today we are somewhat at the mercy of the Russian energy provider Gazprom and have to pay the prices demanded daily on world markets. This has caused so many energy firms to go bust as they sold gas at a fixed rate but were buying it at significantly higher prices to serve their customers, sometimes many multiples of what we pay them.

We will all end up paying more to cover all the extra costs in the years to come. This was clearly anticipated when the Rough storage facility was closed .

The government line

On Budget Day the Chancellor said the government has no control over international energy prices. This is true but, because of poor decisions in the past we have no buffer in our supplies. There is nothing in the freezer to take out for an unexpected reason so we are relying on Russia and others to supply us with our gas. This has a huge impact on all of us and will be a major contributor to inflation and rising interest rate in the months to come

In 2013, the then energy minister. Michael Fallon said the decision to allow Rough to close would save the UK £750m over 10 years. Instead, it has cost us several times that this year alone in extra costs to companies, government bail outs to chemical firms and a massive hike in bills to tens of millions of customers across the nation

Analysis

The failure of the Conservative government in 2017 to invest and protect the nations supply of gas was a gigantic strategic mistake. How could they jeopardise the nations prosperity for just £750 million over ten years?

We are told a government’s first duty is the security of the nation. Surely the second must be economic wellbeing of the nation?

The Tories have failed us totally on this.

Meanwhile the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) has said that the country will take a 4% hit to GDP due to Brexit and a further 2% due to the pandemic.

As you look aghast at your next energy bill, remember who is responsible.

Read more by Peter Benson.

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