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Shale gas no danger to renewables say experts

There is a perception among some in ” and many outside of ” the power industry that the rapid rise in the use of shale gas will produce a fall in the utilisation of renewables.

In this month’s PEi we ask major players in the energy market if they believe that a dash for shale gas will result in an over-reliance on gas and, in turn, a less diverse energy mix.

And the vast majority said ‘no’.

“The usual concern is that cheap gas might crowd out renewables and lead to a lock in,” says Laszlo Varro, head of the gas, coal and power division, International Energy Agency.

However, he added that while it is “an interesting concept, the real-life evidence is that, during the shale gas revolution, US wind and solar production doubled, and some of the key shale states such as Texas and Colorado are also success stories for renewable deployment.

“US energy policy remained resolutely pro-nuclear, shale gas or not.

There are very powerful synergies between flexible gas and low carbon sources. Together they form the foundations of a secure, cost efficient and low carbon energy system.”

Matti Rautkivi of Wartsila agrees and in fact states that “the whole question about the ‘risk or danger’ of shale gas to future energy mixes is absurd”.

He said: “Gas generation is, today and in the future, the best alternative for flexibility. Consequently, the power mix diversification actually increases the need for flexible gas generation.

“I don’t see that investments in gas generation would jeopardise investments in renewables, but flexible gas generation is a prerequisite for their efficient integration.

“The shale gas boom does not create dangers or risks for the future power system development, but it can enable a faster transition to better power systems.”

Mark Morey, director of fuel intelligence at Alstom Power, also does not believe that more gas must mean fewer renewables.

He said that “the use of gas will be balanced against other sources of clean, low-cost and reliable sources of electric power”.

“Both power producers and their regulatory agencies are well aware of the value of a diverse generation portfolio to manage fuel supply and cost risks.”