Britain will massively expand wind, solar and nuclear so that nearly all of its electricity comes from low carbon energy sources by the end of the decade.
The government has unveiled its much-anticipated Energy Security Strategy to minimise its dependence on energy imports following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
But what does the industry think about the new energy plan?
Rocket boosters under UK’s energy transition
RenewableUK’s Chief Executive Dan McGrail said: “The Prime Minister’s ambitious new strategy puts the rocket boosters under the UK’s transition to renewable energy and will cut consumer bills.
“The new targets mean that our world-leading offshore wind industry will do the heavy lifting in getting Britain permanently off the hook of gas power by boosting our nation’s homegrown energy supply.”
The boss of the trade association added that the government needed to make use of every tool in the box to boost the UK’s energy independence.
Concerns over planning reforms
Commenting on today’s announcement, David Smith, Chief Executive of Energy Networks Association, which represents the UK and Ireland’s energy network companies, said: “Faced by a number of challenges, the government’s plans to strengthen energy security by boosting clean power and doubling the UK’s hydrogen production targets are welcome.
“Having shown our ability to mobilise over £300 million of early investment in energy networks for a green recovery from Covid-19, the UK’s networks are ready to move with the same urgency to deliver these new ambitions and continue to ensure security of supply.
”However, we are concerned that planning reforms underway don’t fully reflect the needs of the network infrastructure necessary to connect new generation and support new demand. If unresolved, this is a significant barrier to achieving the government’s aims.”
Lack of commitment to UK jobs
The GMB Union said promises of jobs in the offshore wind sector do not make sense when the UK awards new projects to companies based in authoritarian regimes.
Gary Smith, GMB General Secretary said: “Looking beyond the ‘aims’ and ‘ambitions’ of this plan, there are serious questions about the worrying lack of specific commitments on UK jobs.
“The UK should be building this energy future, not surrendering it to other nations.”
Energy Strategy U-turn costs 22,500 homes up to £600 each
The Energy and Climate Intelligent Unit (ECIU) highlighted that the government’s Energy Security Strategy took ‘very limited steps on energy efficiency’.
It noted that the home energy efficiency scheme ECO could have been expanded to allow an estimated 22,500 homes to benefit from insulation upgrades.
Sepi Golzari-Munro, Deputy Director at ECIU, said: “Soaring gas prices are responsible for adding at least £500 to energy bills, forcing another 2.5 million households into fuel poverty.
“Without help to insulate their homes to bring down gas bills there may be little prospect they can afford to keep their homes warm.
“Rumours that Chancellor Rishi Sunak blocked moves to boost the successful ECO scheme that’s saved low income households £1.2 billion on their energy bills this year, could raise tough questions as the gas price crisis continues to bite.”
The role of nuclear
In response to the government’s British Energy Security Strategy and its announcements on nuclear power, the Chief Executive of the UK Nuclear Industry Association, Tom Greatrex, said: “The new nuclear target of 24GW by 2050 is a vital step forward for UK energy security and our net zero future.
“Investing in fleets of large and small scale stations is essential to securing clean, affordable, British power which will work alongside renewables to cut our dependence on gas.”
Energy giant EDF welcomed the government’s ambition for further investment in wind, nuclear and solar.
EDF’s UK CEO Simone Rossi said: “Britain is right to take control of its energy future, with a step-change in ambition for electricity from wind, nuclear and solar and greater energy efficiency.
“Building more new nuclear will reduce Britain’s dependence on overseas gas and keep energy prices stable, creating thousands of jobs while we’re doing it.”
Need for a balanced mix in a renewables-led energy revolution
Tom Fyans, Director of Campaigns and Policy at countryside charity CPRE, said: “We have yet to see the full details but at first glance, there are serious concerns the imbalance between offshore wind and solar energy.
“In particular, the scale of the expansion of solar energy seems likely to industrialise the countryside rather than heralding a new era of popular rooftop renewables.
“These proposals suggest offshore wind – by far the least landscape damaging option that has the most public support – would be under utilised at the expense of the countryside, which we also need to grow food and soak up carbon.”
The strategy won’t lower people’s bills
In response to the publication of the Energy Security Strategy, Greenpeace UK tweeted: “More oil and gas, massive gamble on nuclear energy. Fails to tackle energy waste and insulate our homes.
“Weak on popular and cheap onshore wind. It’s a D- from us. The strategy won’t lower people’s bills or make our energy secure.”
Energy efficiency, major pissing piece
Citizens Advice, the official watchdog for energy consumers, has also responded to the government’s Energy Security Strategy.
Dame Clare Moriarty, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “There is a major missing piece of this strategy. Energy efficiency. Improving the energy efficiency of homes in this country can help bring down bills right now, it means safer, warmer homes and it protects people from future price spikes.
“Increasing domestic energy supplies will help protect bill-payers from price spikes. But the financing and building of new nuclear is complex and projects have a history of being delivered late and over budget. Consumers can’t be left to pick up the tab if the same thing happens again.”
The new strategy will do little to ease the burden for consumers
Lily Frencham, Chief Executive Officer of the Association for Decentralised Energy, said: “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.”