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The Energy Security Strategy – Providing very little security at all

Everyone in the energy sector – from humble planning and environmental lawyers such as myself to CEO’s of energy organisations have been waiting for the latest Energy Security Strategy for a long time.  The wait is now over with the release of the Strategy earlier this week.

Ordinarily this would have excited only a core group of people, but with the rising cost of energy and ever present energy security issue which has been brought into sharp focus with the war in Ukraine has meant this is now front page news and was the feature on the 5 Live phone yesterday morning.

For the last 15 years I have been talking about energy security being critical to the ongoing success of the UK, this was largely driven by the analysis that we should, as a country, not be reliant on one or two forms of energy – a bit like my grandmother’s saying of never putting all your eggs in one basket.

Campaigners have long argued for this as a way of reducing emissions, but for me it was the belief that if we invested in a mix of different types of energy generation we would be shielded from the rise in energy costs.  The onshore wind and solar projects we were promoting in and around 2014 would now be producing energy, if the grid had increased its capacity at that then we could have increased the solar arrays to the benefit of the nation which would have provided a more secure model and one which would be more cost effective for consumers now.  Some commentators such as Nathan Bennett from Renewables UK confirm if the energy generation as set out in the press release was in the grid now we would all be £100 better off, not facing further increases in our energy costs.

So this is my ‘I told you so’ rant over, now for the detail.

Once again it is disappointing that onshore wind which is known to be the cheapest form of energy generation has been held in abeyance once again Perhaps there will be a removal of footnote 54 in the NPPF which will unlock the barrier to future development.

But there is good news – the increase capacity on floating wind and off shore wind generation.  The increased support of these will create new jobs and will bring forward new and emerging  technology as the UK leads the world in these forms of generation.

Overall there is to be:

  • 24GW of nuclear by 2050
  • 50 GW of offshore wind by 2030
  • Upto 5GW of floating wind
  • An increase (up to 5 times) in solar energy by 2035
  • Up 5 GW of green hydrogen by 2030 – up to 10 GW overall
  • Increase funding for heat pump manufacturing

There is however a new licensing round for the North Sea oil and gas projects.

New nuclear is the interesting take home.  The aim is to build small modular reactors to overcome the energy intensive and high heat industries concerns.

Earlier this week the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the “IPCC”) confirmed that urgent action is needed to avoid a climate catastrophe.  The IPCC confirmed that governments are their final warnings.  It hard to argue against that in the current environment.  The Strategy does nothing to address this and focuses on potential job creation (this was seen in the Government’s 10 point plan), but these jobs are needed now to safeguard the sector and to protect against the impending disasters that are suggested by climate experts. The report mentions renewable energy 67 times, which is in sharp contrast to the Strategy which wants to push forward on a nuclear first policy.

There is scant detail on how the Strategy will overcome these issues, control emissions or, which is probably most important in a Strategy that is about security of supply, how that is delivered swiftly.  With the current round of planning reforms touted to be in the Queen’s Speech in May, there seems little hope the system will be sufficiently funded, resourced and supported to deal with the challenges it faces.

The vast majority of people, including Tory voters, back more wind power in their areas, polling consistently shows. But your future energy bills now will be even higher than they need to be because ministers are worried a tiny minority of people can’t cope with looking at turbines. There is a boost to offshore wind, a genuine British success story, but it is unavoidably more expensive than onshore wind.”