nuclear power reactor plant

UK’s Energy Security Strategy focuses on renewables and nuclear

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The government has announced a strategy to boost the UK’s energy security, although ministers have admitted that it will not help consumers with the soaring energy prices.

The new commitments are focused on boosting nuclear, wind, solar and hydrogen, as well as new licences for oil and gas exploration. The Energy Security Strategy could see up to 95 per cent of the UK’s electricity generated through low carbon means by 2030, the government said.

The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) claims the Strategy could create over 40,000 more jobs in clean industries in the short term, with up to 480,000 jobs by 2030.

The Strategy will see a significant acceleration of nuclear, with an ambition of up to 24GW generating capacity by 2050, representing around 25 per cent of our projected electricity demand. Small Modular Reactors from the likes of Rolls Royce could form a key part of this pipeline.

It will also see the creation of a new government body, Great British Nuclear, which will bring forward new projects, backed by “substantial” funding.

Elsewhere, the Strategy aims to generate up to 50GW of offshore wind energy by 2030 which will be underpinned by new planning reforms to cut the approval times for new offshore wind farms from 4 years to 1 year.

A licensing round for new North Sea oil and gas projects is planned to launch in the Autumn, although it is not clear how this will help domestic energy security as the privatised fields will see the fuel extracted sold on the global market.

The government said it also plans to increase the UK’s current 14GW of solar capacity which “could grow” up to 5 times by 2035.

Finally, the Strategy aims to double current ambitions around the generation of low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030, with at least half coming from green hydrogen and utilising excess offshore wind power to bring down costs.

When pushed about the impact this could have on consumers struggling with high bills today, business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng admitted to Sky News: “You are right to say that the strategy is more of a medium term, three, four or five-year answer, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t address this.

“It’s really important that we get an energy strategy, an energy policy, that means we can have more security and independence in the years ahead.”

He also denied that the Treasury had vetoed his plan to subsidise household insulation to reduce energy demand – which is often seen as one of the fastest ways to curb bills and shift away from imported gas.

The Strategy also faced criticism from the likes of Rebecca Newsom, Greenpeace UK’s head of politics. She said: “This strategy comprehensively fails to stand up to Putin’s violence, to take the sting out of soaring energy bills, or take control of the spiralling climate crisis.

“The government could have chosen to power ahead with quick, cost-effective and fair solutions like taxing oil and gas companies’ mega-profits, investing more to cut energy waste from homes, and unblocking planning barriers for cheap and popular onshore wind.

“Instead, while there are some improvements on renewables targets, they have prioritised slow solutions, dishing out rewards to vested interests in the nuclear and the oil and gas industries, which won’t tackle the cost of living crisis or reduce our dependence on gas.

RenewableUK’s chief executive Dan McGrail was more upbeat saying that the Strategy would “put the rocket boosters” under the UK's transition to renewable energy.

“The new targets mean that our world-leading offshore wind industry will do the heavy lifting in getting Britain permanently off the hook of gas power by boosting our nation's home-grown energy supply. Reforms to speed up the planning system and how quickly we connect new offshore wind are essential to meet these new ambitions,” he said.

“We need to make use of every tool in the box to boost our energy independence, so it's right that government is looking again at planning rules so that onshore wind can proceed in parts of England where there is support, as it's the cheapest source of new power and the quickest to build.”

Rain Newton-Smith, chief economist at the CBI, said: “This Strategy sets an ambitious bar for a more resilient, low carbon energy system for the future. Bold words must now be matched by bold actions from the government. 

“The proof will be in the Strategy’s delivery, in partnership between business and government.  Business believes greater energy independence must go hand-in-hand with delivering a net-zero, higher growth economy.

“Increasing our domestic generating capacity is an essential part of dealing with the current energy crisis. Big bets on nuclear will provide clean and stable power for consumers and businesses.  This scale of ambition should be replicated for other renewable technologies like onshore wind. Commitment to planning reforms and rapid approvals is what will really make the difference now.”

BEIS said the Strategy will help to lower consumer bills this decade compared to a scenario where they had not taken the measures at all.

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