Following rising global energy prices and volatility in international markets, the UK’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has set out plans that aim to boost Britain’s energy security, which include a diverse range of nuclear, renewables and oil and gas.
The commitments will set out to ‘supercharge’ clean energy and accelerate deployment, which could see 95% of Great Britain’s electricity set to be low carbon by 2030, the department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) says.
The British Energy Security Strategy sets out an expansion of nuclear, wind, solar, hydrogen, oil and gas, including delivering the equivalent to one nuclear reactor a year instead of one a decade.
We’re setting out bold plans to scale up and accelerate affordable, clean and secure energy made in Britain, for Britain – from new nuclear to offshore wind – in the decade ahead
The acceleration of nuclear, with an ambition of up to 24GW by 2050 to come from this safe, clean, and reliable source of power, would represent up to around 25% of the UK’s projected electricity demand.
Small Modular Reactors will form a key part of the nuclear project pipeline, ‘subject to technology readiness from industry’, BEIS says.
A new government body, Great British Nuclear, will be set up immediately to bring forward new projects.
‘Affordable, clean and secure energy’
The government will also look to increase the UK’s current 14GW of solar capacity which it says could grow up to five times by 2035. It will consult on the rules for solar projects, particularly on domestic and commercial rooftops.
The strategy also set out plans to double the UK’s ambition of low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030 – up to 10GW – with at least half coming from green hydrogen and utilising excess offshore wind power to bring down costs.
Government says this will not only provide cleaner energy for vital British industries to move away from expensive fossil fuels, but could also be used for cleaner power, transport and potentially heat.
The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, said: “We’re setting out bold plans to scale up and accelerate affordable, clean and secure energy made in Britain, for Britain – from new nuclear to offshore wind – in the decade ahead.
“This 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.”
The plans also include:
- Offshore wind: A new ambition of up to 50GW by 2030 underpinned by new planning reforms to cut the approval times for new offshore wind farms from four years to one year and an overall streamlining which government says will ‘radically reduce’ the time it takes for new projects to reach construction stages while improving the environment.
- Oil and gas: A licensing round for new North Sea oil and gas projects planned to launch this Autumn, with a new taskforce providing bespoke support to new developments – recognising the importance of these fuels to the transition and to our energy security, and that producing gas in the UK has a lower carbon footprint than imported from abroad.
- Onshore wind: The government will be consulting on developing partnerships with a limited number of supportive communities who wish to host new onshore wind infrastructure in return for guaranteed lower energy bills.
- Heat pump manufacturing: The government will run a Heat Pump Investment Accelerator Competition in 2022 worth up to £30m to make British heat pumps, which reduce demand for gas.
Rising energy prices
The plan is published in light of rising global energy prices, provoked by surging demand after the pandemic as well as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
This will be central to ‘weaning Britain off expensive fossil fuels’, BEIS says, which are subject to volatile gas prices set by international markets we are unable to control and boosting our diverse sources of homegrown energy for greater energy security in the long-term.
“Consumer bills will be lower this decade than they otherwise would be as a result of the measures this government has taken”, BEIS says.
Business and Energy Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, said: “We have seen record high gas prices around the world. We need to protect ourselves from price spikes in the future by accelerating our move towards cleaner, cheaper, home-grown energy.
The simple truth is that the more cheap, clean power we generate within our borders, the less exposed we will be to eye watering fossil fuel prices set by global markets we can’t control.
“The simple truth is that the more cheap, clean power we generate within our borders, the less exposed we will be to eye watering fossil fuel prices set by global markets we can’t control.
“Scaling up cheap renewables and new nuclear, while maximising North Sea production, is the best and only way to ensure our energy independence over the coming years.”
The strategy follows a series of engagement by the Prime Minister and ministers across Government with key industry leaders, including from the oil and gas, wind and nuclear sectors.
RenewableUK’s CEO Dan McGrail said: “The renewables industry is ready and able to work with Government to deliver the ambitions set out in the new Energy Security Strategy. Renewables can deliver new, low-cost power quicker than any other option and wind will be at the heart of a secure, affordable net zero energy system.
“Scaling up our ambitions for renewables, and increasing speed of delivery, will help us cut bills and be more energy independent.
“The sector is investing tens of billions of pounds in cheap wind power, as well as cutting-edge green hydrogen and floating wind technology, so that the UK can reduce our dependence on gas.
“Green investment is creating tens of thousands of jobs across the UK to support levelling up and reaching net zero faster.”
Ged Barlow, Chief Executive of Net Zero North West: “The current challenges only serve to highlight why we need an integrated and resilient net zero energy strategy in the UK, which will help to protect us against pressures such as increasing energy prices while enabling the transition to net zero.
“Today’s strategy recognises the role that natural gas will continue to play and that producing it in the UK has a lower carbon footprint than imported from abroad. It is an important transition fuel and shouldn’t be demonised.
Gas is very much part of a transition strategy. A net zero future will require a range of low carbon technologies – including renewables, nuclear, hydrogen and ammonia – to provide energy security for the future
“Reaching net zero is a journey and we will require carbon capture and blue hydrogen to get us there. This does not mean a step back from net zero. In fact, we suggest that the additional tax income from more UK produced natural gas could be used to fund the transition to net zero.
“However, gas is very much part of a transition strategy. A net zero future will require a range of low carbon technologies – including renewables, nuclear, hydrogen and ammonia – to provide energy security for the future.”