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  • Writer's pictureSimon Mosdal

Looking at the UK’s energy sources: natural gas

Natural gas, a fossil fuel composed primarily of methane, has played a significant role in the UK's energy sector for decades. While concerns about its environmental impact grow, natural gas remains a key player in the transition towards a clean energy future. 

Natural gas is a versatile fuel used for electricity generation and residential heating.  It is transported through pipelines and burned in power plants to produce electricity similar to coal or oil. In homes, natural gas is used in boilers for heating and cooking. Its clean burning properties compared to other fossil fuels like coal made it a popular choice in the past.

Natural gas offers some advantages. It burns cleaner than coal, emitting less air pollution and greenhouse gases. Additionally, natural gas power plants are relatively quick to start and stop, allowing them to respond to fluctuations in electricity demand, a crucial function as the UK integrates more variable renewable sources like wind and solar.

However, natural gas remains a fossil fuel, and its combustion releases carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas contributing to climate change. Concerns exist regarding methane leaks during extraction and transportation, further negating its environmental benefits. Furthermore, the price of natural gas can be volatile, subject to global market fluctuations.

The future of natural gas in the UK is likely to be transitional. While it may continue to play a role in the near future, particularly in providing grid stability, the focus will shift towards cleaner energy sources. Technological advancements like carbon capture and storage could potentially mitigate the environmental impact of natural gas, but this remains an uncertain prospect.

Pros of natural gas:

  • Cleaner burning than coal, with lower air pollution emissions.

  • Power plants can respond quickly to changes in electricity demand.

  • Existing infrastructure for transportation and distribution.

Cons of natural gas:

  • A fossil fuel that emits greenhouse gases during combustion.

  • Concerns about methane leaks impacting the environment.

  • Prices can be volatile and subject to global market fluctuations.

To achieve its net zero goals, the UK needs to carefully consider natural gas's environmental impact and prioritise a swift transition to renewable energy sources.

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The UK Zero logo beside a phone with the UK Zero home screen showing the UK's energy mix on the 11th May 2023.


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