The government’s British Energy Security Strategy sets out how the UK will accelerate the deployment of wind, new nuclear, solar and hydrogen, whilst supporting domestic oil and gas production in the short term. Dale Edwards, Green Energy Strategic Consultant with Clarke Willmott LLP, provides expert comment for Green Business Journal.
War in Ukraine, coupled with Brexit and rising costs, made it clear that the government had to address the challenge of ensuring that the UK has a clear strategy with resilience at its core to ensure less dependency on overseas energy supplies.
As a long-term advocate of nuclear energy, I was delighted that there is significant commitment in growing the nuclear fleet. Nuclear energy can provide a reliable base layer of clean energy over decades, which renewable energy solutions currently can’t. Ever since the green light to start building Hinkley Point C was given in 2016, there has been much talk of the renaissance of the nuclear industry with future builds to follow on, taking advantage of new skills, cost efficiencies and continuous improvement.
The nuclear energy strategy has an ambition of generating up to 24GW by 2050, which would represent up to around 25% of projected electricity demand, with Sizewell in Suffolk and Wylfa in Anglesey citied as possible project sites.
With the prospect of eight new reactors along with small modular reactors, these are exciting times for the sector, offering significant supply chain opportunities to businesses across the UK. With a clear plan to grow nuclear, there will be renewed confidence that businesses can gear themselves up to take advantage of opportunities over the next few decades.
Other elements of the strategy involve increasing commitments outlined in the Energy White Paper, (published in December 2020). This is encouraging and ambitious, with major uplifts on expectations for offshore wind, hydrogen production and solar.
One aspect of the announcement which also caught my attention was a new licensing round for North Sea oil and gas projects later in the year. New oil and gas projects will undoubtedly increase the UK carbon footprint, but I appreciate the conflicting requirement for energy resilience. So long as the new projects can minimise their carbon footprint – which will include offsetting – this is a pragmatic compromise which is probably needed at this time and could be scaled back later.
In summary, the British Energy Security Strategy is another positive step in the direction of achieving Net Zero, rejuvenating the economy and providing long-term energy security. What these ambitious plans need is timely action, together with funding and planning simplification to ensure they can happen.
Costs will be many billions which the government must support to encourage investment from the private sector. If this opportunity to re-draw the energy landscape does not materialise, it may not be possible to achieve Net Zero by 2050, while also developing a robust and outward looking green economy and ensuring energy security for the UK.
Our green energy team will closely monitor changes in legalisation and regulation that are likely to result because of the emerging green economy.