A recent study published by the National Snow & Ice Data Centre in Boulder, Colorado, has shown that Arctic sea ice is 80% less than it was 30 years ago. The significant melting of Arctic ice has caused a surge in the cold water brought about from the regular melting and freezing of this ice. This increase of cold sea water has intercepted the jet stream from the Southern Hemisphere which brings warm oceanic currents past us. These currents are what maintain are more balanced seasonal weather system and in the past have prevented us from enduring the extremely cold winters that Canada is exposed to even though we are on the same latitudinal lines as Canada. As more cold water enters the ocean the jets streams are more likely to be interrupted which could lead to significantly colder winters as well as increased chances of flooding and droughts.
As we are all aware the current trend of cold weather has extended well beyond the usual seasonal months, this has been demonstrated in the sustained snow storms that could potentially continue into April. Excluding areas such as the Pennines, the Highlands or the Peak District regular snowfall at the end of March is practically unheard of. The relentless snowfall has placed a continued strain upon public services such as buses and trains as well as causing many disruptions to roads and motorways leaving some areas almost unreachable. As well as the strain it has potentially put on businesses by forcing temporary closures it is the possible long term impact through rises in energy costs which is also being felt.
As early as January Steve Holliday, Chief Executive of National Grid, said: “In any scenario, it is hard to imagine that the costs of our energy are going to be lower than they are today.
“It is not the real world. People should be honest with consumers. Energy costs are going up.
“The challenge for the Government and industry is how to keep those cost increases as low as possible.”
In keeping with these comments the persistant cold weather has lead to an increase in energy consumption which has in turn forced a general increase in the cost of gas and electricity.
There are now also fears that Britain has become too reliant upon gas and oil imports from countries such as Russia, Norway and Qatar. This was further emphasised during the closure of a natural gas supply pipeline from Belgium where the cost of gas rose by 50% on the day markets from 100p/therm to 150p/therm. The markets then stabilized at 100p/therm once the pipeline was reopened but this is still above the average cost of gas for this time of year which normally sits at around 60-70p/therm.
With increasingly dramatic fluctuations in temperature, a greater reliance on imported energy and an unstable economy it is unlikely that any of us will avoid the bite of rising energy costs. Without a long term, sustainable solution the energy market will continue to be volatile without ever abating. Now is not the time to continue wasting money on perpetuating what will eventually be a defunct industry. Energy companies should see this as an opportunity to invest in a green solution, a solution that can allow Britain to be an independent energy island able to produce enough electricity for it’s own needs.