The Energy Security Strategy – Secure for Who?

11.04.2022 4 min read

Renewables and nuclear are the way forward, according to the UK’s recently published Energy Security Strategy.

There has been a mixed response to this, with some applauding its ability to provide the UK energy independence and security, especially in the current climate of soaring energy prices, BREXIT, the situation with Russia, and the fossil fuel lobby. Others are questioning the statement, stating that there are still key issues that the government has failed to address. These include failing to commit to additional funding or incentives to actively improve the overall energy efficiency of the UK’s building stock to reduce heating demand. The failure to capitalise on green jobs and levelling up and wondering how all this new fossil fuel abstraction will possibly allow the country to meet its 2050 net-zero targets. Particularly as the government measures will take some time to kick in.

What exactly does the Statement promise?

The statement centres around boosting nuclear, wind (predominantly offshore), solar and hydrogen, as seen by the following commitments:

  • 24GW of nuclear by 2050 (up to 8 sites, including talks to develop Sizewell C in Suffolk, and Wylfa, within Anglesey, as well as a fleet of smaller reactors forming a key part of the pipeline) to be pushed forward by a new government body, Great British Nuclear, backed by a £120m “future nuclear enabling fund”.
  • The solar capacity of 14GW grows up to five times by 2035, supported by the modernisation of the grid and distribution networks.
  • Increase for offshore wind generation of the current target to generate 40GW – 25% of the UK’s energy – by 2030, to 50GW, including 5GW from floating offshore wind in deeper seas which would be underpinned by planning reforms to speed up their development.
  • Onshore wind has not had the same relaxing in the strict planning rules however, there will be consultation on ” supportive communities” for the building of these developments in exchange for guaranteed lower energy bills.
  • A doubling of hydrogen production capacity from 5GW to 10GW, aiming to provide cleaner energy for the industry as well as for power, transport and possibly heating.
  • A paltry £30 million Heat Pump Investment Accelerator Competition to support British-made heat pumps.

It is anticipated that the proposals could see 95% of electricity by 2030 being low carbon and this greater focus on low carbon energy has been welcomed by many. However, the acceleration of nuclear has raised a few eyebrows from campaigners such as Friends of the Earth, who have concerns about the hazardous nature of nuclear and its associated costs and waste. There is also a question of why a government seeking to tackle higher energy prices would want to lock us into one of the most expensive ways of generating energy, and why new nuclear has failed over recent decades.

Many people, and not just environmental campaigners, are expected to be unhappy with the plans to continue expanding the UK’s own gas and oil supplies by pumping more from the North Sea, with the issuing of licences for new projects to be brought forward to this summer. Additional concerns are that fracking has not been completely ruled out, with the government citing the Ukraine war as a push to “look at all possible options for improving domestic energy supply”.

IEMA’s CEO Sarah Mukherjee has responded, by commenting although the Energy Strategy sets out a diverse mix of solutions to meet the UK’s energy demands there is a sense the government should do more to balance the supply-side with options to reduce energy consumption at the source, such as offering Homes / Buildings and Industry energy efficiency improvements which are affordable and contribute to environmental improvements.

Opinions are split, and there are still some questions in there about how comprehensive this strategy really is and whether it goes far enough to solve both the current energy crisis and that of the climate and cost of living crisis. What is clear is that this is a strategy influenced by political motivations perhaps more than science. Whilst it is welcomed in the context of green jobs, new skills in renewables and energy generation and greater energy security, it surely could have gone further.

Key Contacts

Simon Butler Senior Director - Environment