A Point of View on the UK Energy Policy Etudes de l'Ifri, February 2017
The United Kingdom chose to leave the European Union at a crucial moment for the Energy Union, and in a period when the necessity of leading a coherent energy transition is strongly shared by EU countries. In the light of this conjunction of events, this study analyses the determining factors of the UK energy policy.
The industrial revolution started in England, a country endowed with abundant coal supplies but also with robust policies and the right technical, economic and social conditions for making the most out of these natural resources. Likewise, the UK developed effective domestic and foreign policies in the first half of the XXth century and successfully managed the second industrial revolution, which was based on the use of oil and electricity.
The UK energy system has gone through significant changes over the past forty years, with the gradual phase out of coal, the development of oil and gas production in the North Sea, the transformation of the electricity system, the re-building of a credible nuclear strategy and the rise of a low-carbon economy. These changes have been implemented at a reasonable cost, at least compared to the cost incurred by the other EU energy systems.
The consistency and stability of the UK energy policies are striking, and one must admit that they are driven by a great sense of pragmatism. They are developed through trial and error and their results are openly debated and confronted to the three objectives of having secure, affordable and sustainable energy supplies. There is no doubt about who is the main beneficiary from these policies: it should always be the UK national community. Its interests are well-defended, government after government, and this national focus is probably the main reason why the UK energy policy appears to be very consistent. The EU has often tried to replicate the UK initiatives in the field of energy, but probably without taking proper account of the specifities of the UK context.
The full study is available in French: La politique énergétique du Royaume-Uni: un point de vue