More nuclear power as UK sets out plan for future energy security
Nuclear power will form a key part of the energy mix alongside wind and solar power, according to a new strategy published by the UK Government.
The British Energy Security Strategy sets out how Britain will accelerate the use of wind, solar and hydrogen as well as the increased use of nuclear power, with up to eight new reactors.
The government will also seek to maximise production of oil and gas in the North Sea to help reduce dependence on foreign imports.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson described the plan as “bold,” saying it would reduce dependence on foreign energy and help reduce bills for consumers.
But environmentalists criticised the plan's lack of detail on reducing the overall amount of energy used.
The government said the accelerated deployment of wind, new nuclear, solar and hydrogen would be done alongside supporting production of domestic oil and gas. It said 95 per cent of electricity could be “low-carbon” by 2030.
The strategy will see a significant acceleration of nuclear, with an ambition of up to 24GW by 2050. This would represent up to around 25 per cent of projected electricity demand.
A new government body, Great British Nuclear, will be set up immediately to bring forward new projects, the government said.
On oil and gas, the government said there would be a licensing round for new North Sea project this autumn, with a new taskforce set up to provide support for new developments.
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.”
Elsewhere in the strategy, the government said it would consult with “a limited number of supportive communities who wish to host new onshore wind infrastructure in return for guaranteed lower energy bills” .
And it said a Heat Pump Investment Accelerator Competition worth up to £30m would help speed up production of heat pumps and reduce demand for gas.
The plan comes amid surging energy prices, which have helped drive inflation and put huge financial pressures on millions of families.
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.
“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 Scottish Conservatives welcomed the strategy, saying it would protect Scotland's energy security and hit Russian president Vladimir Putin "where it hurts".
Trade association Energy UK also welcomed the news. Its chief executive, Emma Pinchbeck said: “Industry has committed to delivering a net zero power system in the 2030s as the best way to provide secure and cheap power to the UK.
"We support the government’s commitments in the Energy Security Strategy to accelerate the deployment of domestic clean power sources, build a modern energy system, and reduce demand for volatile international gas. We look forward to seeing the full details.”
However, Professor Karen Turner, director of the University of Strathclyde’s Centre for Energy Policy, said it was short-sighted of the government to focus so much on energy supply without also addressing demand.
"Here the announcement on heat pumps does bring some focus in the strategy on the demand side," she said.
"However, this is a bigger and more complex challenge than simply making alternative heat systems available: they need to be affordable and accessible.
"Moreover, heat pumps operate best in better insulated and more energy efficient homes, which is the very thing people need now to reduce their energy bills and limit their exposure to all types of price shocks, including but not limited to the current problems with gas, as the dominant heating fuel in UK homes
“As it stands, the way in which we live and do business in the UK means that our demand for fossil fuels, sourced from both home and abroad continues apace. Domestic heating is just one such example.
"All types of businesses across the country are exposed to the current energy crisis. Oil and gas are still enmeshed across our supply chains and, with the volatility we have seen in prices, this leads to serious impacts for the cost of living and doing business across our whole economy."
The Scottish Greens also criticised the plan, saying it is not fit for purpose because it does not tackle the cost-of-living crisis or heed warnings on the climate emergency.
"It flies in the face of climate science and does nothing to support the millions of households who are facing sky high energy bills right now," said the party's energy and climate spokesperson Mike Ruskell.
“A commitment to new nuclear power will take decades to deliver costly energy, produce a toxic waste legacy, and apparently still deliver less energy than the Scottish Government’s ScotWind offshore programme. It simply doesn’t make sense.
“Scotland has 25 per cent of all Europe’s offshore renewables potential. With independence we could lead Europe in the just transition to our renewables future. Instead, with the climate denying Tories in the driving seat it seems we’re going full speed ahead toward climate breakdown.”