Alongside a nuclear ramp-up, Britain’s energy security strategy envisages up to 50 GW of offshore wind and 10 GW of hydrogen – half of which would be so-called green hydrogen – by 2030.
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The UK government has revealed details of its long-awaited “bold” energy security strategy, but critics have scoffed at its inclusion of fossil fuels and what they see as a lack of ambition.
In a statement on Wednesday, the government announced a “major acceleration of local energy in Britain’s plan for greater energy independence”.
The plans – known as the British Energy Security Strategy – mean that “cleaner” and “affordable” energy will be produced in Britain, the government has said, as the country seeks to “strengthen independence, long-term energy security and prosperity”. “
The government is now targeting up to 24 gigawatts of nuclear power by 2050, which it says would account for about a quarter of the country’s projected electricity demand. The strategy could see up to eight reactors developed.
Alongside nuclear, plans include up to 50GW of offshore wind and 10GW of “low-carbon” hydrogen capacity, at least half of which would be so-called green hydrogen, by 2030. The government has also said solar capacity could be set to quintuple by 2035, from 14 GW today.
On onshore wind – a divisive issue for Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative party – the government said it would consult on “the development of partnerships with a limited number of support communities that wish to host new onshore wind infrastructure in exchange for guaranteed reduced energy bills”. .”
However, in a decision that sparked outrage from environmental activists, the government also said its strategy would be to “support domestic oil and gas production in the short term”, with a licensing round for new oil projects. and gas in the North Sea. for a fall launch. The government has claimed its strategy could ensure that 95% of Britain’s electricity is “low carbon” by 2030.
“The simple truth is that the more clean and cheap energy we produce within our borders, the less we will be exposed to exorbitant fossil fuel prices set by global markets that we cannot control,” Kwasi said. Kwarteng, the country’s business and energy secretary. , noted.
“Scaling up cheap renewables and new nuclear, while maximizing North Sea production, is the best and only way to ensure our energy independence over the next few years.”
The release of the strategy comes at a time when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has heightened energy security concerns. Russia is a major supplier of oil and gas, and its actions in Ukraine have caused a number of economies to try to find ways to reduce their dependence on it.
In response to the invasion, the UK said it would “phase out imports of Russian oil” – which meets 8% of its total oil demand – by the end of this year. Russian natural gas, the government said, was “less than 4%” of its supply, adding that ministers were “looking at options to further reduce this”.
While Business Secretary Kwarteng was optimistic about the strategy and its prospects, the plan has drawn ire in some quarters.
“It fails as a strategy because it doesn’t do the most obvious things that would reduce energy demand and protect households from price hikes,” said Danny Gross, energy campaign manager at Friends of the Earth. .
“Dipping deeper into the UK’s renewables treasure trove is the surest path to meeting our energy needs – not fossil fuel fool’s gold.”
While the acceleration of offshore wind developments was “welcome”, Gross said ministers needed to “go further and make the most of the UK’s huge onshore wind resources”.
Meanwhile, Lisa Fischer, program manager at climate change think tank E3G, argued that the future of the North Sea lies in renewable energy rather than oil and gas.
“A push for offshore wind is welcome, but embracing oil and gas at the same time will stall the UK’s leap to an affordable and clean energy future,” she said.
“Moral and economic madness”
The UK Energy Security Strategy is published the same week as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published its latest report.
“Limiting global warming will require major transitions in the energy sector,” the IPCC said in a press release. “This will involve a substantial reduction in the use of fossil fuels, widespread electrification, improved energy efficiency and the use of alternative fuels (such as hydrogen).”
Commenting on the report, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres spared no effort. “Climate activists are sometimes portrayed as dangerous radicals,” he said. “But the really dangerous radicals are the countries that increase the production of fossil fuels.”
In March, the International Energy Agency announced that 2021 had seen energy-related carbon dioxide emissions reach their highest level in history. The IEA found that global energy-related CO2 emissions increased by 6% in 2021 to a record high of 36.3 billion metric tons.
The same month, Guterres also warned that the planet had emerged from last year’s COP26 summit in Glasgow with “a certain naïve optimism” and was “sleepwalking to climate catastrophe”.