On the 7th April 2022, the Government’s long awaited ‘British Energy Security Strategy’ was published. The Strategy builds on the Prime Minister’s ‘Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution’ (published in November 2020) and the Government’s ‘Net Zero Strategy.’ 

The plan was published in light of rising global energy prices, and provoked by surging demand due to the Coronavirus pandemic and Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. 

The Government’s, ‘British Energy Security Strategy’ sets out plans for accelerating the deployment of wind, new nuclear, solar and hydrogen power, whilst also supporting the production of domestic oil and gas in the nearer term. The Plan outlines that this could see 95% of electricity by 2030 being low carbon. 

Central to the plan is nuclear energy. The strategy outlines the ambition to ramp up nuclear power generation to 24GW by 2050. This would represent approximately 25% of our projected electricity demand. 

Other key announcements in the plan include: 

  • Offshore wind: 
    • An ambition of up to 50GW of power produced by 2030. 
  • Onshore wind:
    • Government will be consulting on developing partnerships with a limited number of supportive communities who want to host onshore wind infrastructure in return for lower energy bills. 
  • Oil and gas: 
    • A licensing round for new North Sea oil and gas projects planned to launch in the Autumn. 
  • Heat pumps:
    • Government will run a Heat Pump Investment Accelerator Competition in 2022 worth up to £30 million to make British heat pumps. 
  • Solar: 
    • Government aims to increase the UK’s current 14GW of solar capacity to five times it’s current capacity by 2035. 
  • Low carbon hydrogen: 
    • Government aims to double their ambition of low carbon hydrogen production from 5GW to 10GW by 2030. 
  • Aims to increase number of clean jobs in the UK by: 
    • Supporting 90,000 jobs in offshore wind by 2028.
    • Supporting 10,000 jobs in solar by 2028. 
    • Supporting 12,000 jobs in the UK hydrogen industry by 2030. 

There has been criticism of the strategy from industry, with many believing that the strategy is a missed opportunity that does not help reduce the UK’s reliance on expensive imports in the short term, and fails to address the rising cost of energy bills across the United Kingdom. 

Laura Bishop, Chair of the Ground Source Heat Pump Association, commented on the strategy stating: 

“The Government’s Energy Security Strategy published today represents a missed opportunity. Instead of focusing on immediate measures to reduce dependence on expensive imported gas, including accelerating the rollout of heat pumps, the Strategy focuses on the government’s favoured electricity generating technologies, including those with long lead in times. This will do nothing to address the immediate cost of living and energy crises facing UK consumers.”

“We welcome the announcement of a new grant competition for UK heat pump manufacturing and a government information website for heat pumps, but again, this will do little in the short term to boost heat pump demand, or put the UK on course to delivering the Prime Minister’s target of 600,000 heat pumps a year by 2028.”

“The GSHPA has been calling for an acceleration of the welcome measures contained in last year’s Heat and Buildings Strategy, but today’s announcements provide no additional funding for consumers wanting to switch to heat pumps, nor give any clear indication of when the legacy environmental costs on electricity bills will be removed.”

“We needed to see far greater urgency in today’s announcements, with a clear focus on reducing energy demand in the short-term. We didn’t get it.” 

Lily Frencham, CEO of the Association for Decentralised Energy commented on the Strategy stating

“Decentralised energy measures are proven, pragmatic, modern and ready to bolster the UK’s energy security and decarbonisation ambitions – we just need the political will and investment to create certainty and catch up with other European nations already using them to great effect. 

Unfortunately, the new Energy Security Strategy misses a trick by neglecting to focus on easy and established measures that can help people immediately – such as improving the efficiency of their homes. Without increased government support in these areas, it will be impossible to adequately protect consumers from continued price rises and volatility in the future.”

The UK and Ireland Fuel Distributors Association (UKIFDA) commented on the Strategy stating

“The government must urgently revisit the Energy Strategy, focusing more attention on measures to help households reduce their energy usage now, and on supporting cost-effective and practical low carbon energy solutions. For the 1.7 million UK households that currently use oil, renewable liquid fuels such as HVO should be prioritised as HVO immediately reduces carbon emissions by 88%. It can also be used in an existing oil boiler following a simple, low cost conversion that takes one hour and costs around £500.

“With the increasing cost and uncertainty over energy, the publication of a robust and practical plan is an important step as we look to transition away from fossil fuels to low carbon alternatives.

“But while the focus of the document looks to the infrastructure needed to meet Britain’s future energy generation and consumption, there is very little on how the government intends to help households and businesses to reduce their energy requirements NOW. Given the current situation, we think this is a very serious omission. The best energy is the energy you don’t use, so this is where the new strategy should have started.

“We are particularly concerned about off-gas grid households that use oil heating. The government has stated that 65% of these homes are in EPC Bands E to G (a much higher proportion than homes that use mains gas heating), making them some of the least energy efficient in Britain.

“The government has proposed that, from 2026, these households will be expected to install a heat pump should they need to replace their existing boiler. It makes no sense to install a heat pump in an energy inefficient building, yet that is exactly what these households will, in most cases, be forced to do. We estimate that the average cost of a heat pump, and the necessary energy efficient improvements, will be around £20,000 – which for most is completely unaffordable. Yet there is nothing in the new strategy to help these households.

“This is completely at odds with the statements in this new Energy Strategy and recent Heat and Buildings Strategy that the government is committed to choice, and to a fair transition. Where off-gas grid homes are concerned, they are doing the opposite – offering no choice and treating them extremely unfairly.

“The industry has already demonstrated the viability of an HVO solution after sponsoring the conversion and running cost of nearly 150 oil homes to the fossil-free fuel. We urge the government so support a wider rollout.”

Brian Berry, the Chief Executive of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) has commented on the strategy stating: 

“The Energy Security Strategy completely misses the mark in tackling energy consumption in our homes. After the disappointment of the Heat and Buildings Strategy this was an opportunity for Government to implement a National Retrofit Strategy, focussing on improving the energy efficiency of the UK’s draughty and leaky homes. While the strategy does deliver 0% VAT on energy efficiency improvements to properties, a welcome move that the FMB has long been campaigning for, this only helps those with the money to pay in the first place. A broader, insulation led, retrofit strategy would have been an immediate solution to reduce energy consumption, boost the economy and importantly, help save homeowners money on their bills during a cost-of-living crisis.” 

Mike Foster, Chief Executive of the Energy and Utilities Alliance has commented on the debate surrounding on-shore wind farms stating:

“Last week, ahead of the publication of the Government’s Energy Security review, the debate in the energy world centred on whether onshore windfarms were an “eyesore” or were they “attractive”. I must admit to being ambivalent to this debate.

They are man-made structures, artificially placed in the landscape. To me they are functional, if I don’t have to see them great, but if they perform a key task for society, then so be it. Mobile phone masts are hardly pretty, but without mobile reception, the world seemingly comes to an end. And existing electricity pylons are hardly a thing of beauty but without them, we would struggle to be the developed nation we are.

So let’s call out those framing the onshore wind debate in terms of beauty. Such comments either minimise the importance of the debate (namely securing low carbon energy cheaply) or worse, it risks another bout of elitism pouring forth. If you do think such structures are attractive, great that’s your opinion, but don’t expect everyone to agree. And certainly don’t suggest that because you do, then others should, because you know best.

I sit in the realist camp. The more wind power we have the better, provided there is built in resilience for electricity supply when the wind doesn’t blow. And when there is too much wind, and supply exceeds demand, then let’s not waste the power but instead store it. This is where green hydrogen earns its place. For producers, earning a revenue stream rather than relying on constraint payments that risk getting smaller over time, is a good thing. Storing a gas, with the flexibility to use it when needed, is common sense. Using it to deal with peak energy demands, again, an obvious security of supply gain.

Imagine having local windfarms, producing green hydrogen, supplying local people with heating, hot water and cooking. All backed up by a nation-wide grid of pipes to carry the hydrogen gas to areas without local supply, or at times of local need. I can’t be the first to think of this idea can I? We could call it a national grid, or something like that. Now that’s what I call attractive.”

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