An outline of the Energy Security Strategy was published yesterday evening, with the full plan to be released today. It includes a focus on accelerating the development of green energy sources like hydrogen, solar and wind power — with the goal, by 2030, of producing up to 50 gigawatts of the latter. This would be “more than enough” to power every home in the UK, the Government has said, and is to be achieved by streamlining the approval process for new wind farms. The UK also plans to increase its current solar power capacity from 14 to 70 gigawatts by 2035 and low carbon hydrogen production from 5 to 10 gigawatts by 2030.
Alongside this push for renewable energy, the strategy also proposes a stepping up of the UK’s nuclear power — with plans to meet a quarter of the country’s electricity demand, or 24 gigawatts, come the middle of the century.
The Government is looking to rely in part on the development of so-called Small Modular Reactors which, it is expected, will be quicker to construct and safer to operate than their full-scale counterparts — with companies already exploring such systems including Rolls-Royce.
To these ends, a new governmental body — “Great British Nuclear” — is to be launched to advance such new projects and will be accompanied by the establishment this month of a £120 million Future Nuclear Enabling Fund.
Already, Britain’s first new nuclear power station in a generation, Hinkley Point C, is being constructed in Somerset, England — with plans underway for another in Suffolk. Together, these two facilities would output 6.5 gigawatts of power.
Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has focused the minds of the international community on the urgent need to diversify away from Russian oil and gas and generate more power domestically.
“Even those countries that are not physically dependent on Russian hydrocarbons — like the United Kingdom — are still vulnerable to prices that are dictated by global markets heavily influenced by Russia, ratcheting up costs for UK consumers.
“For as long as we depend on oil and gas — wherever it is from — we are all vulnerable to Putin’s malign influence on global markets.
“To diminish Putin’s malign influence, we not only need to phase out Russian fossil fuels, but also look to domestic sources of energy too.”
He added this morning that the new plan will ensure that the UK will “get its energy independence back”.
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson added: “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.”
While long-term plans emphasise renewable and nuclear power sources, the Government is also looking to increase the UK’s own oil and gas supplies in the short term.
Emphasising that domestic gas production comes with a lower carbon footprint than imported fuels, the strategy outlines a new licensing round for North Sea oil and gas projects that will open in Autumn this year, and the establishment of a task force to provide bespoke support to any new developments going forward.
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The Government’s plans to increase oil and gas production alongside growing the UK’s renewable energy capacity has been met with some criticism.
Friends of the Earth energy campaigner Danny Gross said: “Delving deeper into the UK’s treasure trove of renewables is the surest path to meeting our energy needs — not the fool’s gold of fossil fuels.
“The acceleration in developing offshore wind is certainly welcome, but Ministers must go further and make the most of the UK’s massive onshore wind resources.
“Wind turbines are fast to build, popular with the public and could provide cash-strapped households with huge quantities of cheap renewable power.
“Nuclear power is not the solution either. New nuclear power stations would take well over a decade to build and they’re expensive, hazardous and produce waste that will remain highly radioactive for thousands of years.
“Other countries have taken much bolder action to meet the scale of the challenge. Britain can – and must – raise its ambition to ensure everyone has access to clean, affordable energy.”