Jeremy's Blog 5th August 2022: Supply Issues and Future Proofing
This article by Jeremy Moody first appeared in the CAAV e-Briefing of 4th August 2022
While it seems that weather records can always be broken, East Anglia, the south east and south central England have, with 5mm of rain, had the driest July since the Met Office was founded in 1836, after England’s driest 8 months since 1976. Temperatures above 40oC broke UK records. In a pattern consistent with but ahead of climate change forecasts, much of the west and north were wetter with Scotland having 98 per cent of its average July rain but water stress in parts of Aberdeenshire. Driving review of crop variety, enterprise choice and management, such conditions have been more severe in Europe.
With the global temperature put at 1.1oC above the pre-industrial average, even if net zero policies are reasonably successful, we might now only be half-way with the climate change in the system. The less successful those policies, the more we will have to pursue the opportunities to adapt and innovate for resilience in the new, more volatile conditions with greater flooding, drought and heat stress.
That links directly to the supply chain issues bedevilling the economy and, this time, the first driver of inflation. Almost wherever you look across the world, they are disrupted and delayed with bottlenecks, whether for labour, containers, machinery, building materials, power and much else – and now water as drought becomes a pressure on planting and abstraction licences are suspended. Housing’s supply problem sees us with 3.4 million fewer houses for our people than the EU average, priced at nine times earnings.
While limited by the strong dollar that is also supporting grain prices, oil has eased (diesel now more stable) but forecasts are for gas to remain expensive for much longer, into 2024 (with effects on nitrogen fertiliser). This winter looks particularly difficult and, while the UK may not take much Russian gas, we are in the same market as other European buyers, with Germany desperate. High energy business users might not be supplied while continental governments are already moving to reduce temperatures in buildings, public lighting and less essential uses, putting their peoples on notice. Despite alarm at the winter’s bills, we have not yet started doing this here.
The National Grid has issued its Winter Outlook 2022/23 - Early View, assuring but noting some supply risks in early December. However, its assumptions include continued power supplies from the continent and perhaps not a full “Beast from the East”. A fortnight ago, power was only maintained to east London by buying a little Belgian electricity at 5 times any previous price. Limited transmission capacity sees use by new data centres now preventing development, housing and commercial, in parts of west London – similar issues may come in rural areas with growing use of heat pumps and EV charging.
Renewables and efficiency become the twin tracks for adaptation and resilience just as irrigated farms will need water storage across years and efficient use and automation and technology can ease labour shortage and cost. We have a long way to go in a short time for future proofing.