El Reino Unido agudiza su crisis energética y económica (reseñas de la prensa británica en torno a la crisis energética del país).
Posted by juanjesus en enero 14, 2008
La prensa británica está haciéndose eco de forma cada vez más insistente de la precaria situación energética y, por ende, económica del Reino Unido. Comentamos las abundantes referencias a esta cuestión crucial para entender su economía, una de las más importantes del Planeta y, por ende, la de las zonas del Mundo que de ella dependen:
Así, se reconoce que las subidas del precio del combustible (Daily Mail: Average family faces £500 fuel surcharge for long-haul holidays) están causando mella en los costes de la aviación (la relación entre precio del barril y del queroseno de aviación es directa), y provocando unos crecientes costes en los desplazamientos, por parte de los británicos. La previsión inclusive es que, para la temporada de veraneo, la demanda de combustible suba y, por tanto, también el precio. Dayly Mail habla literalmente de una “crónica escasez de combustible de aviación” en este escenario, lo que ha motivado el alza de precios y los sobrecostes en los billetes. El periódico estima que en el plazo de un año el coste del combustible para aviación prácticamente se ha doblado.
Por su parte, The Guardian reconoce que Gran Bretaña se encuentra atrapado por una “crisis energética” The Guardian: Pincer movement has Britain in grip of an energy crisis), que está dejándose sentir en el comportamiento del consumidor, entre otras cosas en el coste creciente de la electricidad. The Guardian relaciona directamente este fenómeno con el declive geológico del suministro del Yacimiento del Mar del Norte. La liberalización energética que se llevó a cabo en los años 90 produjo una reducción del importe de la electricidad (lo que estimula su consumo) cercano al 40%, según el diario. Pero ahora están subiendo, entre otras cosas por el declive reconocido de los yacimientos de gas y petróleo del Mar del Norte, que suministraban de forma autónoma a Gran Bretaña hasta hace dos años. Así, ahora Reino Unido precisa importar más del 10% de su energía, lo que se incrementará nada menos que hasta el 50% en cinco años, debido al rápido declive del yacimiento (los yacimientos de petróleo de aguas profundas, normalmente, tienen esas características: declinan con mucha rapidez). Se reconoce en este artículo que ni siquiera la energía nuclear supone una “panacea” ante el panorama de dependencia creciente, dado que el plan gubernamental supondrá prácticamente y de forma única, el reemplazo de algunas de las muy avejentadas centrales nucleares actuales, que deben ser desmanteladas en los próximos años. Uno de los resultados de este declive petrolero es el incremento del déficit comercial de Gran Bretaña, conforme su factura de importación de petrolera crece para mantener el consumo, como reconoce The Guardian (The Guardian: Record oil imports widen gap). Así, este diario reconoce que las importaciones de petróleo en el año 2007 fueron las mayores desde 1970, antes del comienzo de la explotación del yacimiento del Mar del Norte. Esta tendencia, a su vez, “importa inflación” y deteriora crecientemente el valor de la moneda británica, como reconoce el análisis, lo que deteriora el conjunto de la economía británica.No sólo el petróleo está declinando en el Reino Unido. Según The Independent (The Independent: UK’s coal output falls to pre-industrial levels), la extracción de carbón en el país alcanzó su nivel más bajo desde el comienzo de la revolución industrial, a un nivel visto sólo hace 200 años. La extracción de carbón en Gran Bretaña alcanzó su cenit en el año 1913. Sin embargo, el declive del gas natural en el Mar del Norte está obligando a las centrales térmicas británicas a escorar hacia el carbón (importa dos tercios de su consumo, pagando un precio que prácticamente se ha duplicado en un año, como en el caso del petróleo), pero en su mayoría importado desde Rusia, Australia y otros lugares.Y es que, como se reconoce en la BBC, “Gran Bretaña tiene una creciente y amenazante crisis energética (BBC: Energy solution is in the balance). Este panorama nos permite hablar de crisis de gran calado en la Isla, y con repercusiones evidentes a nivel global, dada la importancia de este país en el entorno de las economías europeas e internacional.
Last updated at 10:58am on 12th January 2008 Surcharge: The increase is the result of a chronic shortage of aviation fuelFamilies flying abroad face paying a fuel surcharge of more than £500 as airlines hike their prices again. The latest increases are the result of rocketing oil prices and a chronic shortage of aviation fuel. They come on top of existing charges which already exceed £100 per passenger. Air France and Dutch airline KLM yesterday increased their surcharges by up to £12 on a return booking, blaming the spiralling cost of oil. Passengers on long-haul Air France and KLM flights now pay a total surcharge of up to £126 per return trip, or £32 on short-haul. This means a family of four will pay £504 in surcharges for a long trip. Britain‘s three largest carriers, BA, Virgin Atlantic and BMI said they had no current plans to raise surcharges, but increasing pressure on fuel prices and supplies may prove unstoppable. British Airways said last night: “We continue to monitor the price of oil and keep the surcharge under constant review.” BA passengers are already paying a £116 surcharge on return flights of more than nine hours – £464 for a family of four – and £96 on flights of under nine hours. The airline is likely to be in the forefront of any price increases because it has only ‘hedged’ – or agreed a fixed price in advance – for half of its 2008 fuel needs. Virgin Atlantic has hedged about 65 per cent of this year’s fuel needs. Oil industry experts are predicting a surge in oil prices from Easter as world demand for supplies soars ahead of the holiday season. They believe oil will go up to between $110 and $115 a barrel, having recently hit $100 a barrel. Motorists are now paying £1.04 a litre for petrol and £1.10 for diesel and face another 3p a litre. Ray Holloway of the Petrol Retailers’ Association said: “Crude price will start rising significantly from Easter. “We’ll be back at $100 a barrel by the end of February. And by summer we could be at $110 to $115. “That’s bad news for motorists and for holidaymakers. It will mean 3p a litre or so on pump prices and higher aviation fuel prices.” Airlines are also suffering a shortage of aviation fuel, which in the 12 months to December has nearly doubled in price from $596 to $908 a tonne. The situation is so serious that Esso and BP in the UK have stopped producing paraffin to concentrate on boosting aviation fuel. Even so, supplies at Heathrow and other British airports remain 3 per cent short of demand. Experts predict even worse to come with demand for energy from booming economies including India and China. Watchdogs at the Air Transport Users Council (AUC) have described fuel surcharge hikes as a “classic example” of misleading price practices. In August last year Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic escaped hefty fines and gained immunity from prosecution after blowing the whistle on a price-fixing deal involving fuel surcharges with rivals British Airways, which was fined £270million by UK and U.S. watchdogs. Budget airline Ryanair says fuel surcharges are a “rip-off” and insists: “We will never apply a fuel surcharge, not now, not ever.” • Speculation that British Airways might be the subject of a takeover bid by a Middle Eastern airline sent BA shares soaring yesterday. But the Emirates airline insisted it was not planning to buy a stake in BA. “Emirates is concentrating on organic growth,” said a spokesman in London.
UK consumers are feeling the pinch from soaring electricity bills as the nation is hit by a double whammy of sky-high oil prices and dwindling North Sea supplies. Richard Wachman explains how it happenedRichard Wachman, The Observer, Sunday January 13 2008 So, the chickens are coming home to roost. Electricity prices are set to rocket and the government can’t – or won’t – do a thing about it. Of course, ministers need to show they care – hence Alistair Darling’s demand for an explanation from Alistair Buchanan, boss of regulator Ofgem, for the steep rise in gas bills announced by Npower last week. Similarly, Prime Minister Gordon Brown offered sympathy to consumers when he described the price hikes as ‘regrettable’ during an exchange in parliament last week. However, experts say that if the companies had done anything wrong, Ofgem would have come down on them like a ton of bricks – but they haven’t, and that’s the point. For years successive governments, both Tory and Labour, have been in the thrall of the free market, claiming that Britain’s liberalised energy regime was the envy of the world. For a while, they were right. EnergyWatch, the consumer body, says that between 1996 and 2001, bills were 40 per cent lower in the UK than on the continent. The break-up of the Central Electricity Generating Board by Conservative governments in the 1980s and early 1990s looked to be a rip-roaring success. Remember PowerGen, Eastern Electricity, Seeboard, National Power, Scottish Power, Southern and the host of smaller entities created by the privatizing zeal of the Conservatives?But as in many other areas of business, Britain played by free market rules, while others didn’t. A consequence of our openness was that it attracted predatory interest from the monopolistic power giants of Western Europe, which acquired large chunks of its industry, tantalisingly free of state protection. Npower is today owned by RWE, the former state-run German utility. Four out of six UK power companies are foreign-owned. And while Britain was dismembering its utilities, separating supply and distribution companies from electricity generation and transmission, continental operators kept their empires intact under the eye of friendly governments. They agreed only recently to partial liberalization following intense pressure from the European Commission. What has all this got to do with higher energy bills? EnergyWatch’s
chief executive Allan Asher says it is no coincidence that after the rash of continental takeovers at the end of the 1990s, British customers now face paying as much, if not more, than their European counterparts. ‘We have been exposed to the illiberal markets of Europe where the price of gas is linked to the price of oil, a linkage that Britain was shielded from in the past and which is wholly artificial,’ he says.Asher complains that the European energy giants tacitly collude in fixing prices and are able to hoard gas in huge European storage depots until the winter months, before selling it at inflated prices to both continental and British consumers. ‘There is tacit price collusion,’ he says.It was thought that building gas pipelines from Europe to Britain would help to convey energy to British households. But Asher says gas is sometimes produced in the UK, exported back to Europe for storage and then pumped back and sold in Britain at prices that are higher than they should be. ‘Britain is a treasure island for some of these companies, and something needs to be done about it. Government has assumed that the market will sort out everything, but it hasn’t.’ EnergyWatch is campaigning for European power companies to be more transparent about why prices need to rise as steeply as they do. ‘Our free market model is broken,’ says Asher.But foreign ownership of British power companies is only one factor behind the steep rise in bills. In the past, Britain was protected from the full blast of international pricing pressures by the abundance of North Sea oil and gas . But those fields are running dry. We already need to import more than 10 per cent of our energy, a figure which is set to rise to 50 per cent in five years. From having an enclosed market with prices set according to fluctuations
of supply and demand created by the weather or the cost of North Sea production, Britain is now caught in a pincer movement of sky-high oil prices and fast-depleting domestic supplies.A City energy analyst says: ‘People or governments moan about linking the gas price with the price of oil, but it is only so much bleating. Often, both energy sources come from the same fields, and besides, the suppliers – the Opec cartel, Russia’s Gazprom and others – say that the two are linked and no one can do anything about it.‘No industrialised country, with the possible exception of Russia, is self-sufficient when it comes to energy. And demand is going through the roof as India and China consume more and more.’ Oil company executives say the rising cost of energy should be viewed through the prism of a new world order where countries are scrambling for scarce natural resources.Gordon Brown made much play of issues beyond Britain’s control last week when he told the House of Commons during Prime Minister’s Questions that energy price rises were the result of ‘factors that are hitting every economy in the world’. But consumer groups say that the government has known for years that North Sea oil would run out, and has done little to prepare for it. The UK, for instance, has limited facilities to store gas. While Germany and France can store 20 per cent of the gas they consume, Britain can set aside just 5 per cent. Neither does nuclear look like a panacea, as the government’s nuclear expansion plan envisages simply replacing our ageing nuclear stations over a period of years. No one has been talking about adding capacity. Nuclear currently provides British homes with 18 per cent of their electricity, but there are worries about the huge costs linked with building and operating new nuclear power stations. Few believe this can be done by the private sector without state subsidies. Nevertheless, the government is again hoping the free market can deal with the question, although few believe that will be possible. The bill for the current nuclear clean-up operation has risen to £70bn, according to the Nuclear Commissioning Authority, much of that paid by the taxpayer. French power giant EDF says it wants to build nuclear plants in Britain – but in France, its nuclear facilities are bankrolled by the state. Britain, like the rest of Europe, is between a rock and hard place, because no matter how hard the commission works to liberalise continental energy markets, the suppliers – Opec and Gazprom – are de facto cartels that hold the whip hand over pricing. And no more so than at a time when demand from the emerging nations of Asia and Latin America is at an all-time high. Suppliers can act without interference from an independent regulator: they are answerable only to their own governments. As Asher says: ‘The limitations of the free market are there for all to see; it’s time for the politicians to sit up and take notice.’ But quite what they can do is by no means clear.
The Guardian: Record oil imports widen gap
Angela Balakrishnan, The Guardian, Friday January 11 2008 Britain‘s trade deficit deepened in November as oil imports rose to an all-time high because of soaring prices.Figures from the Office for National Statistics yesterday showed that Britain’s shortfall in goods and services with the rest of the world widened to £4.4bn from October’s upwardly revised £4.3bn.The ONS said the monthly deficit in oil rose to £663m from £530m in October, the highest since September 2005. Oil imports were the highest since records began in 1970. The goods deficit in the three months to November compared with the previous three months hit a record high of £22.7bn from £21.3bn. Meanwhile the surplus in services shrank modestly to £3bn from £3.1bn in October.Analysts said the most worrying news was the pick-up in the pace of import price inflation to a 14-month high of 3.7%. This may be seen by the Bank of England as an early warning of the impact of a weaker pound. Over the past three months the pound has been the weakest major currency. It is likely to be a factor behind the Bank’s decision to keep interest rates on hold.Analysts said that the size of the deficit meant the pound was likely to fall further.
The Independent: UK’s coal output falls to pre-industrial levels
By Sean O’Grady, Economics Editor
Published: 12 January 2008
Coal production in Britain has fallen to its lowest level since the industrial revolution, according to data from the Office for National Statistics. The ONS’s index of production showed that the coal industry recorded its worst ever reading in October, at 42.9 (with 2003 representing the base index level of 100). Annual production is set to fall below 15 million tonnes, a level last seen 200 years ago. Production peaked in 1913 at 287 million tons. The ONS said that UK electricity generators have been turning to coal as the price of natural gas has climbed even more steeply, but that demand has been met by imports from Russia, Australia and elsewhere. Foreign coal accounts for two thirds of UK consumption.Some special factors adversely affected UK output late in the year, including a fatality and changeovers of coalfaces within pits. Even so, that 2007 will see a 10 per cent fall in output compared with 2006, at a time when coal prices have almost doubled, speaks volumes for the parlous state of the industry, which comprises a mere five deep pits.However, the increase in the price of coal does seem to be helping the industry to a slightly brighter future, with production at the Hatfield colliery in Yorkshire restarting after a £100m investment by Richard Budge, the former chief of UK Coal, and Russian investors.Coal’s woes were reflected in the wider economy. Industry as a whole saw a 0.1 per cent fall in output in the three months to November, over the previous quarter. There was a significant fall in output in electrical and electronic goods, rather than the usual seasonal boost.Paul Dales of Capital Economics commented: “We do not think it will be long until the manufacturing sector enters a recession, contributing to a weakening in overall economic activity this year rather than offsetting it.”The OECD yesterday predicted a “moderate downturn” in Britain’s economy.Manufacturers will, however, be helped in due course by a renewed weakening in the value of sterling. During trading yesterday, the euro, with a hawkish European Central Bank dashing hopes of rate cuts in the eurozone, rose to a fresh record high against the pound, at one point reaching 75.86p. Sterling dipped below $1.95 to a 10-month low against the dollar.Libor rates for the dollar and the euro fell again, but those for sterling jumped. Three-month sterling rates rose almost five basis points to 5.68 per cent, attributed by analysts to the Bank of England’s failure to deliver a rate cut on Thursday. BBC: Energy solution is in the balance By Richard Coackley
Managing Director, White Young Green EnergyBritain has a major energy crisis looming and tough decisions are needed that balance cost and supply with environmental considerations. The decisions we make now will impact on our children and our children’s children. We need a bold vision which delivers energy safely, cleanly and reinforces our global leadership and commitment to carbon neutral living. In designing this future, the debate is focused on nuclear – should we have it, is it safe, and can we afford it? But in many respects, this heated nuclear debate is missing one of the most important points – the future for energy is mixed. It is not one source at the expense of another. Each type of energy supply has a role to play, certainly for the foreseeable future. And in the midst of the debate, energy conservation is often overlooked, in spite of the fact that conservation offers a very sustainable and practical method of energy management. As such, any future long term energy strategy – and we really do need to focus on the long term – must increase energy efficiencies in homes, offices, the surrounding built environment and our transportation systems. There is also considerable passion for renewable energy in spite of the fact that energy from wind, wave, tidal and solar is irregular and often unreliable. Society wants energy on demand, yet a cruel irony, again often overlooked, is that energy cannot be stored. Carbon capture One of the most efficient renewable energy sources is hydro-power, and it is good to see Scotland taking a lead in this area. The energy supply crisis is compounded by the fact that a significant number of coal, gas and nuclear stations are or soon will be coming to the end of their lives. This presents a great opportunity for a bold new long term vision. A realistic strategy must deliver energy on time, on demand, with manageable risk, and close to where it is needed. Carbon capture and storage remains an innovative dream with no full-scale complete prototype tested. However, this should form part of our bold vision and global commitment. In addition, the massive reduction of energy losses through heat loss in our coal-fired power stations must be tapped through combined heat and power systems. This is equally bold, but receives little interest due to the manner in which energy generation is priced. And while gas will continue to be a major player for many years, it is being increasingly imported, creating risks to our security of supply. Looking ahead, everyone is asking – can Scotland survive in a nuclear-free energy zone? The politicians are saying “Yes”, but the reality is, nobody really knows whether nuclear will be part of the Scottish energy map in 2030. Cleaner processes The fact is, nuclear power plays a key role right now in Britain and many of the nuclear stations will continue to produce energy for the next decade at least. The next generation of efficient nuclear units produce one tenth of the waste produced by the current plants. In terms of efficiency, this next generation of nuclear plants could play a key role in tackling the energy supply problem. From an engineering perspective, the solution is not one energy source rather than another. It will be a balanced portfolio of energy strategies, new technologies, new energy sources, cleaner processes and definitely nuclear. If the energy supply and management problem was entrusted to engineers, Scotland would undoubtedly remain in the nuclear age.
Telegraph: The new generation of nuclear power stations
By Charles Clover, Environment EditorLast Updated: 7:01pm GMT 09/01/2008 The Government will formally give the green light for a new generation of nuclear power stations and announce that it will underwrite private companies’ liabilities for disposing of nuclear waste.It is expected to sugar the announcement, which is expected to spark a fresh row about cost and safety and risk fresh legal action from environmental campaigners, by making clear that by 2020 up to 40 per cent of electricity generation will come from renewables.In talks with companies considering building new nuclear power stations, the Government has been talking about setting aside £1 billion to decommission each new power station after its 40 year life. Because of compound interest, this in fact means setting aside only £12 million a year.The most controversial part of today’s decision is expected to be that the Government will set in train a process of fixing the liabililties which would mean they had to pick up any risk beyond that – in the eventuality that the estimates were exceeded.The legal process for building more nuclear power stations already exists – and has since 1965. What the power companies are looking for is political approval before they make expensive investment decisions.The Health and Safety Executive is already working informally on an assessment of four new reactor types which might be used – from the United States, Japan, Canada and France.This will now be formalised, in a Parliamentary statement by John Hutton, Business Secretary, and is expected to report in mid 2011 with an assessment of the safest and best type of reactors, or reactor, for use in Britain.Also likely to be announced is a year-long strategic assessment of the best available sites, though these are all expected to be on the sites of existing or recently closed nuclear stations.The reactor types are all third-generation designs with passive safety characteristics.Now likely to undergo formal assessment are the Westinghouse AP1000 pressurised water reactor, the French-designed EPR reactor that has been adopted by Finland for its nuclear programme, Canada’s ACR1000 and the General Electric/Hitachi boiling water reactor.Hilary Benn, the Environment Secretary, is also expected to announce the latest stops towards burying nuclear waste in a new rock disposal facility, expected to be underneath the sea, off the coast of Cumbria.The announcements will delight pro-nuclear groups, who have been pressing ministers to make an early decision to replace the current nuclear power stations, most of which will close by 2023.Alistair Smith, a spokesman for the Nuclear Industry Association, said: “Everybody is waiting for the single word that the Government is in favour of it.”But anti-nuclear campaigners, including Greenpeace, will attack the Government, which could face legal action before new sites can be built.Greenpeace won a High Court ruling last year after complaining that the Government’s consultation process was flawed, and the group has not ruled out taking fresh action.Ben Ayliffe, head of Greenpeace’s nuclear campaign, said the second round of consultations was also flawed, adding: “They have no idea what to do with nuclear waste, meaning they simply can’t give the go-ahead for a new round of nuclear power stations.”The Government said it believed the recent consultation was “open and fair” and had given people five months to respond.There were around 2,700 responses, public meetings, media advertising documents sent to libraries and information posted on websites, said ministers.