Even before Russia and Ukraine hit the headlines, the UK was in an energy revolution with a drive towards Net Zero. The UK Government agenda was clear and although the targets were ambitious, we were already pushing ahead quickly with offshore wind, solar and batteries and had longer term developments in progress in nuclear and hydrogen.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine then very quickly led to both a grave humanitarian crisis and an energy emergency. As the EU and US subsequently aim to take Russia out of the energy loop, energy prices and the costs of living are skyrocketing. Every one of us is impacted and the most common question I get asked in the pub is ‘how long before the UK is self-sufficient in energy?’.
That question takes more than a couple of pints to answer, but what is worth deliberating is ‘will this Energy Supply Strategy speed up the essential change?’. We were already focused on renewable energy in the UK; offshore wind developments have built up momentum now and continue to come on stream quickly, onshore solar could be maxed out across the UK in the next 4 – 5 years and the influx of battery and hydrogen projects will allow us to manage supplies more intelligently. But these projects all take time, the planning process can be slow, and with costs rising, there is less surplus cash for even our own green initiatives at home.
What will change under the Energy Supply Strategy?
- Acceleration of nuclear and a new government body, Great British Nuclear
- Offshore Wind – A new ambition of 50GW by 2030
- Oil & Gas – A licencing round for new North Sea oil and gas projects
- Increasing UK’s current 14GW of solar capacity
- Target of 10GW of low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030
There is no reference to wave or tidal in the Strategy which suggests Westminster has not yet acknowledged their potential contribution. And fracking is on the ‘back-burner’ given its contentious nature.
So, onshore wind can be relatively quick to deploy (assuming the public become more amenable to these developments) and North Sea oil can come on stream quickly albeit is not a long-term solution. But the planning process will be key, as we could still be talking several years before we see the benefits!
The targets were ambitious before Ukraine hit the headlines. The UK was already pulling out all the stops and there are some fantastic success stories for what has been achieved to date. But increasing the speed of consenting and implementing projects such as offshore wind and nuclear especially (and the associated network upgrades), will be a challenge – we will have to wait and see what planning reforms come forward off the back of this strategy to facilitate speed! The longer-term future is bright, but in the meantime, we will need to get used to high energy costs to see us through this transition!