Government unveils new energy strategy

Published by Scott Challinor on April 8th 2022, 12:00am

The government has released its new strategy to boost UK energy independence, which could see eight more nuclear reactors built on existing sites.

The new plan comes as the UK seeks to shore up energy security in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and soaring prices.

It had been promised to be released within days of March 9 by the prime minister but was hit with delays over cost reservations within the Treasury concerning nuclear plans, and divided opinion in the Cabinet over the construction of onshore wind farms.

The construction of the new nuclear reactors is intended to reduce the UK’s reliance on oil and gas, with two of them to be approved by the end of the current Parliament and built at the Sizewell nuclear site in Suffolk.

A new body known as Great British Nuclear will be launched to oversee the delivery of the new reactors, with one to be approved each year until 2030.

Ministers are targeting the generation of 24 gigawatts of electricity through nuclear by 2050. This would equate to a quarter of the projected UK electricity demand by that year.

There are also provisions for scaling-up the production of hydrogen, solar and wind power, which could see up to 95 per cent of the UK’s electricity supply originate from low-carbon sources by the year 2030.

The plan says that the government hopes to be able to generate 50 gigawatts of electricity through offshore wind, which ministers say would be more than enough energy to power every UK home.

Ministers will pursue reforms to planning laws to ensure new offshore wind farms can be approved quicker, while government also hopes to build positive partnerships with communities that are willing to have onshore wind farms in and around their area in exchange for reduced energy bills.

Meanwhile, targets for hydrogen production are being doubled to provide a greener energy supply for industry, transport and household heating, while government is also weighing up a change to the rules around solar panel installation in homes and commercial buildings.

The strategy indicates a target of scaling-up solar power capacity by five times by the year 2035.

£30 million in funding has also been set aside for investing into heat pump production, which will reduce reliance on gas for home heating.

Elsewhere, there are plans in the strategy to ramp up oil and gas production in the North Sea with a new licensing round to begin in the summer of 2022.

The government has justified the move on the basis that “producing gas in the UK has a lower carbon footprint than imported from abroad”, talking up the importance of oil and gas to guarantee energy security.

Prime minister Boris Johnson said that the new energy strategy will “reduce our dependence on power sources exposed to volatile international prices we cannot control, so we can enjoy greater energy self-sufficiency with cheaper bills”.

Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng explained that the scaling-up of renewable energies, nuclear power and North Sea oil and gas production in tandem was “the best and only way to ensure our energy dependence over the coming years.”

However, the new strategy has been met with criticism from elsewhere. Labour shadow climate change and net-zero secretary, Ed Miliband, said that the plans were “in disarray” and will “do nothing” in the here and now for the “millions of families facing an energy bills crisis.”

Dr Simon Cran-McGreehin, head of analysis at the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit, also criticised its lack of immediate impact.

“This is an immediate problem that needs solutions now, and this doesn't do anything on prices,” he said.

“It tries to do some things on energy supply, but they're all medium to long-term measures. So, it does seem to fail the exam question.”

Dermot Nolan, the former CEO of Ofgem, called it an “opportunity missed”, given its lack of focus on energy efficiency and home insulation.

Nolan also warned that a lot of the policies would “take a long time to have an impact” and keep the country “dependent on fossil fuels” in the short-term.

Adrian Ramsay, the joint-leader of the Green Party, said that the plans “did not serve the needs of people or the climate” and that onshore wind provisions should “be going even further” than suggested.


Photo by Lukáš Lehotský on Unsplash

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Authored By

Scott Challinor
Business Editor
April 8th 2022, 12:00am

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