British households will spend nearly £6,000 on cooking and heating their homes with foreign gas over the next 12 years as domestic supplies dwindle, experts warn.
The UK will be left dependent on imported gas unless it speeds up the rollout of heat pumps and other renewable energies, according to advice group the Energy & Climate Change Intelligence Unit (ECIU).
A house with average insulation, a gas boiler and average electricity use will have used £5,700 of foreign gas by 2035 – paying £140 per year to Qatar alone, according to the ECIU.
But a comparative home with a heat pump, solar panels and good insulation, could be spending just £10 a year on gas by 2035 if the deployment of renewables speeds up across the country, it said.
It comes as UK reserves of gas in the North Sea are steadily diminishing – meaning the UK will have to look elsewhere to meet demand.
Dr Simon Cran-McGreehin, head of analysis at ECIU, said: “You can’t squeeze much more out of the North Sea; its output has been declining and the official numbers show that’s going to continue. It’s simply running out of gas.”
He added: “Those arguing against heat pumps are arguing for UK homes being more dependent on foreign gas.
“And with wholesale gas prices predicted to stay two to three times higher than before the crisis, that means being dependent on an expensive fuel.”
Oil and gas production in the North Sea is expected to fall from the equivalent of more than 90.3 million tonnes in 2019 to roughly 46.3 million in the next five years, according to the North Sea Transition Authority.
Many North Sea producers have scaled back their businesses following the introduction of a 75pc tax rate on oil and gas companies by the Government this year.
The windfall tax was designed to help families through the cost of living crisis and received cross-party support in Westminster, but critics argue it has stymied investment and jobs.
Mike Tholen, director of sustainability at Offshore Energies UK, which represents the offshore oil and gas industry, said: “We need to move to lower carbon energy, but the scale of the change means it will take years. There is no simple choice between oil and gas and renewables – for the foreseeable future we will need both.
“We know that oil and gas production from UK waters will decline – but if we continue to explore responsibly then we can slow that decline right down – helping give the UK the energy security it needs while it builds the low carbon energy systems of the future.”
Surging gas prices caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year laid bare the dangers of relying heavily on imported fossil fuels. The UK was not a major buyer of Russian gas prior to the invasion, but still had to contend with surging prices because it is part of a Europe-wide market.
The UK currently imports around half the gas it uses. Norway is its largest supplier by a significant degree, followed by Qatar and the US.
The ECIU suggested that figure could rise to as much as 85pc by 2035 without alternatives – leaving the average UK home buying gas worth around £500 a year from abroad.
The Government is encouraging households to replace gas boilers with electric heat pumps which draw warmth from the ground and the air into houses as the UK moves towards net zero.
It is hoping 600,000 will be installed per year until 2028. Replacing gas boilers like-for-like will be banned by 2035.
However, the move towards heat pumps has proved controversial, with around four in 10 households unsupportive of the transition, according to research by Boiler Guide, a network of gas and heat pump engineers.
Proponents of the technology cite their low running costs and long average service life, as well as their environmental credentials.
However critics say they are expensive to install and do not always lead to a significant reduction in energy bills.