The United States has managed to lower greenhouse gas emissions
as well as energy prices as cheap shale gas has displaced coal,
prompting calls from industry for Europe and others to follow
The argument is that natural gas, which
emits less carbon dioxide than coal, can be a friend, not a foe, to
environmentalists. But investors say the shale gas revolution will
not be repeated in Europe.
"I wouldn't completely write off shale gas development in
Europe, but certainly the scale and speed at which it happens will
not be like in the US," said Chris Rowland, an associate at Ecofin,
a British-based investment manager with around €1.5 billion of
assets under management, covering global energy, utility,
infrastructure and alternative energy sectors.
"It's a good fuel for reducing emissions but not a good fuel for
decarbonising," he added.
A series of European Commission roadmaps envisage virtually
carbon-neutral power generation by 2050.
Unless carbon capture and storage can be developed on a
commercial scale, that means gas as a fuel has a limited future and
should not be invested in too heavily, environmental campaigners
They are especially against shale gas, whose environmental
credentials are questioned in Europe.
"We need natural gas as a transition fuel. However, we don't
need such a huge amount of gas and certainly not cheap gas, because
that would kick out not just coal, but also renewables," Greenpeace
renewable energy director Sven Teske said.
In the medium term, the value of conventional gas is in
providing reliable baseload power to supplement unpredictable
renewables, which depend on the sun shining or the wind
Danish state-owned DONG Energy, which has relied heavily on
coal-fired power generation, sees a combination of gas and
renewables as the way to go.
"We see gas-to-power and wind energy as the ideal mix, together
comprising clean and stable energy. Wind energy as the clean energy
source, and gas-to-power as the balancing power," said Carsten
Krogsgaard Thomsen, DONG Energy's acting CEO.