For frack’s sake: how do we solve the energy crisis?

Battle of Ideas festival 2022, Sunday 16 October, Church House, London


Right across Europe, energy supplies are under enormous pressure. A combination of pandemic inflation, lockdown disruptions and Russia’s war on Ukraine has sent energy prices soaring, with reserves running low as we head into winter. Over half a century has passed since Britain opened its first nuclear power station – so why today are we still struggling to meet our energy needs?

Environmentalists argue that the blame lies with our reliance on fossil fuels – and so demand a rapid switch to renewables like wind power. Yet, critics of Net Zero policies argue that renewables are unreliable and still require on the flexible backup of fossil-fuel energy. Even worse, those policies – and long-standing environmentalist opposition – have diverted attention from proven clean energy sources like nuclear. At the same time, arguments continue over whether the UK should exploit its significant reserves of shale gas.

As energy prices skyrocket, most debates focus on the financial support that households might need to pay their bills. But how can we stop such rises in the first place, and provide affordable, reliable energy today and in the future? Is reducing greenhouse-gas emissions still the primary goal, even if energy becomes more expensive? Are new technologies on the horizon, like nuclear fusion, that can save the day?

Tom Heap
environment broadcaster, Countryfile, Panorama, Costing the Earth; presenter, The Climate Show with Tom Heap; author,  39 Ways to Save the Planet

Dr Caspar Hewett
lecturer and degree programme director, Water Group, EuroAquae+, School of Engineering, Newcastle University; director, The Great Debate

Laurie Laybourn
researcher; writer; associate fellow, Institute for Public Policy Research; co-author, Planet on Fire: A manifesto for the age of environmental breakdown

Jordan Tyldesley
journalist and commentator

James Woudhuysen
visiting professor, forecasting and innovation, London South Bank University

Jacob Reynolds
partnerships manager, Academy of Ideas