Does the UK energy security plan live up to industry’s expectations?

What does the energy industry think of the government’s plan to achieve energy independence and lower household bills?

Big Zero Report 2022

Today, the government has announced a comprehensive package of measures and investments aimed at revolutionising the UK’s energy system.

The package includes a wide range of initiatives that cover everything from energy storage and transport to building retrofitting and carbon capture technology.

It also includes significant investments in offshore wind, hydrogen and nuclear energy.

But what is the industry’s opinion on the newly proposed energy security plan?

Massive opportunity

According to Emma Pinchbeck, Energy UK’s Chief Executive, the government’s plan presents a massive opportunity for the energy industry to meet climate change targets and establish a secure, affordable, and clean energy system.

The plan offers economic, social, and environmental benefits such as job creation, boosting British companies, manufacturing, and supply chains, and improving people’s lives with warmer, more comfortable homes that benefit from cheaper energy.

However, Pinchbeck also emphasised the importance of the right environment to attract investment and a focus on delivery, including the detailed work required to reform regulations and policies and implement necessary infrastructure and systems to produce low-cost, low carbon domestic power.

Importance of a hydrogen economy

Lawrence Slade, the Chief Executive of Energy Networks Association, welcomed the government’s recognition of the importance of investment and innovation in the UK’s energy networks to reach net zero in time.

He emphasised the need for planning, regulation, and policy to keep pace with the clock ticking. He hopes that the Electricity Commissioner’s review of planning and connections will help remove barriers for customers looking to connect to the grid and speed up vital energy infrastructure development.

Furthermore, Slade highlighted the importance of developing a hydrogen economy to decarbonise industry, businesses, transport, and homes, and urged progress in decisions on hydrogen blending and business models for hydrogen transport and storage.

Announcements do not go far

Responding to the government’s Energy Security Day statement, RenewableUK’s Executive Director of Policy Ana Musat said: “These announcements do not go far enough to attract the investment we need in the renewable energy sector – we need much bolder action to secure Britain’s clean energy future.

“Global competition for investment in renewable energy projects is fiercer than ever, and the UK risks falling behind and surrendering our global lead.

“The government has highlighted some important steps forward in existing policies and schemes, but we need much more than a “business as usual” approach to kickstart investment on the level we need to boost energy security, cut consumer bills and reach net zero.

“Without that, we won’t land the UK-wide economic benefits of building up new clean energy supply chains, as they will go elsewhere where the investment environment is more conducive and attractive.”

Need for stronger ambitions 

According to Dr Nina Skorupska CBE FEI, who serves as the Chief Executive of the Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology (REA), although there have been positive steps towards delivering crucial renewable technologies, there is still a need for stronger ambitions to solidify the UK’s position as a global leader in the sector. In order to keep pace with the international race for investment and to achieve net zero goals, urgent action is required.

Dr Skorupska said recent reports from the CCC and IPCC have highlighted the need for faster progress, and today’s announcements have left significant gaps in essential policies that would facilitate the rapid decarbonisation of power, heat and transport.

Dr Skorupska emphasises that a wide range of renewable and clean energy technologies is necessary to decarbonise energy systems, but many of these technologies are still missing from current plans.

End the ban on new onshore wind 

According to Sam Richards, Founder of the campaign group Britain Remade, the government’s energy security plan is a step in the right direction but falls short of expectations.

Richards believes Great British Nuclear should prioritise the urgent development of Small Modular Reactors across existing and former coal-powered sites.

He also calls for the update of National Policy Statements to reduce delays in clean energy planning applications and end the ban on new onshore wind developments in England.

Delays could discourage investors 

Jess Ralston, Head of Energy at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, believes that the recent gas crisis highlights the importance of transitioning away from oil and gas for real energy security, especially with the inevitable decline of North Sea reserves.

Ralston also expresses concern that the delay in the UK’s response to the US Inflation Reduction Act and EU Net Zero Industry Act could discourage offshore wind investors and harm businesses, as long-term policy and regulatory certainty are crucial for investment.

Ralston argues that the government needs to ensure a level playing field for renewables compared to fossil fuels, as relying on more oil and gas is not aligned with net-zero targets, and won’t lead to lower bills or improved energy security.

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