UK announces Energy Security Strategy, eight new nuclear reactors to be built
07 April 2022
The UK announced its plans for greater energy independence on April 7 which could see 95% of the country’s electricity produced from low carbon sources by 2030. The government’s British Energy Security Strategy sets out how the UK will accelerate deployment of new nuclear, wind, solar, and hydrogen whilst also supporting the production of domestic oil and gas in the nearer term.
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The strategy will see a significant acceleration of nuclear, with an ambition of up to 24GW by 2050 to come from the energy source and as many as eight new nuclear reactors being built. This would represent up to around 25% of the UK’s projected electricity demand. Subject to technology readiness from industry, Small Modular Reactors will form a key part of the nuclear project pipeline, the government said.
A new government body, Great British Nuclear, will be set up immediately to bring forward new projects, backed by substantial funding, and a £120 million Future Nuclear Enabling Fund will be launched in April.
The strategy also includes:
The UK has set out a new ambition to produce up to 50GW of electricity via offshore wind by 2030 of which up to 5GW could come from floating offshore wind in deeper seas. This will be underpinned by new planning reforms to cut the approval times for new offshore wind farms from four years to just one year and an overall streamlining which will radically reduce the time it takes for new projects to reach construction stages.
Oil and gas
A licensing round for new North Sea oil and gas projects is planned to launch in Autumn, with a new taskforce providing bespoke support to new developments. The government said that the licensing round is part of recognising the importance of these fuels to the energy transition and to the UK’s energy security, and that producing gas in the UK has a lower carbon footprint than imported from abroad.
The government said it would be consulting on developing partnerships with a limited number of supportive communities who wish to host new onshore wind infrastructure in return for guaranteed lower energy bills.
Heat pump manufacturing
A Heat Pump Investment Accelerator Competition will run in 2022 worth up to £30 million to make British heat pumps, which reduce demand for gas.
The UK will also look to increase the current 14GW of solar capacity which could grow up to five times by 2035. The government will be consulting on the rules for solar projects, particularly on domestic and commercial rooftops.
The UK is also aiming to double its ambition to up to 10GW of low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030, with at least half coming from green hydrogen and utilising excess offshore wind power to bring down costs. This will not only provide cleaner energy for vital British industries to move away from expensive fossil fuels, but could also be used for cleaner power, transport and potentially heat, the government said.
The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, said: “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.”
The new strategy comes in light of rising global energy prices, provoked by surging demand after the pandemic as well as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The government is aiming to lower the UK’s reliance on fossil fuels, which are subject to volatile gas prices set by international markets, and boosting the country’s diverse sources of homegrown energy for greater energy security in the long-term.
The government also said that the British Energy Security Strategy will also increase the number of clean jobs in the UK by supporting; 90,000 jobs in offshore wind by 2028 – 30,000 more than previously expected; 10,000 jobs in solar power by 2028 – almost double previous expectations; and 12,000 jobs in the UK hydrogen industry by 2030 – 3,000 more than previously expected.
Business and Energy Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, said: “We have seen record high gas prices around the world. We need to protect ourselves from price spikes in the future by accelerating our move towards cleaner, cheaper, home-grown energy. The simple truth is that the more cheap, clean power we generate within our borders, the less exposed we will be to eye watering fossil fuel prices set by global markets we can’t control. Scaling up cheap renewables and new nuclear, while maximising North Sea production, is the best and only way to ensure our energy independence over the coming years.”
The new strategy has already drawn criticism from across the political spectrum with opposition parties saying an opportunity had been missed to address energy efficiency and insulation, which some campaigners say are key to reducing energy bills. Others criticised the plans for not tackling the immediate issue of rising energy prices while environmentalists have criticised the decision to open a new licensing round in the North Sea while not going far enough when it comes to onshore wind.