UK Experts Call for Swift Action and Clarity in Implementing Energy Security Strategy

Posted on 08 April 2022

What is the plan for implementing the Energy Security Strategy?

Following the recent release of the Energy Security Strategy, the UK now faces the task of devising a credible plan to achieve its energy objectives. The strategy outlines various measures to enhance nuclear energy while also investing in wind, solar, and hydrogen. The impetus for this strategy stems from escalating global energy prices due to increased post-pandemic demand and Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Experts stress the urgency of swiftly implementing the proposals and ensuring their feasibility.

Atkins nuclear & power EMEA managing director, Chris Ball, emphasises the need for a comprehensive plan that matches the required pace to achieve the ambitious energy targets. He underscores the importance of sustained policy and timely execution. Similarly, Chris Richards, the director of policy at the Institution of Civil Engineers, highlights the need for swift action to translate policy into tangible results. Angus Walker, a partner at BDB Pitmans, points out the strategy's vague nature, which he believes contradicts the goals of achieving net-zero emissions and acting urgently.

While the strategy outlines intentions and aspirations, it lacks clarity regarding specific timelines and implementation methods. Fracking and North Sea oil extraction are reintroduced, while onshore wind, a cost-effective renewable energy source, continues to face discouragement due to outdated perceptions of its viability and expense. The strategy does provide encouraging support for offshore wind, hydrogen, solar power, and electricity networks. The overall objective is to reduce dependence on costly fossil fuels subject to volatile international prices and increase the use of domestically sourced energy for long-term security. The strategy aims for 95% low-carbon electricity generation by 2030.

Chris Ball emphasises the importance of delivering the plans in the most cost-effective manner, prioritising affordability alongside sustainability and supply security. He suggests a holistic approach, including the coordination of a Future System Operator to oversee the transformation of the UK's energy system. Efficiencies can also be achieved through a fleet approach to new nuclear projects, optimising supply chains for both large and small-scale plants. The creation of a dedicated government body for nuclear energy could facilitate the coordinated rollout of new projects.

Patricia Moore, the UK managing director of Turner & Townsend, acknowledges the comprehensive nature of the government's plan, which encompasses all energy options. She highlights the challenge of prioritising and organising funding and phasing for the pipeline of major projects promised. Moore emphasises the need for an integrated, cross-industry programmatic approach with proper oversight to deliver net-zero infrastructure and clean energy investments at a rapid pace and on a large scale. She emphasizes that initiatives like new nuclear power require substantial and long-term investment commitments.

The strategy is expected to generate a significant number of clean jobs in the UK. By 2028, it aims to support 90,000 jobs in offshore wind (30,000 more than previously anticipated), 10,000 jobs in solar power (almost double previous expectations), and 12,000 jobs in the UK hydrogen industry by 2030 (3,000 more than expected). Fiachra Ó Cléirigh, the head of energy at WSP, highlights the critical role these new jobs will play and emphasises the need for the availability of skilled workers, resources, and supply chains to ensure successful implementation.

Various industry experts and organisations share their reactions to the strategy. Jeff Woodward, the senior vice president of energy at Aecom, commends the government's focus on offshore wind and low-carbon hydrogen production. He highlights the value of green hydrogen as an electricity storage solution. Woodward emphasises the importance of coupling these energy measures with a commitment to improving energy efficiency in buildings to enhance energy security and achieve net-zero goals.

Marie-Claude Hemming, the director of operations at the Civil Engineering Contractors Association, recognises the government's emphasis on new nuclear power and highlights its importance in ensuring a diverse and low-carbon energy mix. She emphasizes the need for the UK to achieve energy security while simultaneously addressing climate change. Hemming notes that CECA members are prepared to work closely with the government and other stakeholders to deliver the secure, low-carbon energy future envisioned.

Sir John Armitt, the chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, acknowledges the government's ambition to expand offshore wind and solar generation but emphasises the importance of translating these targets into affordable electricity for consumers. He suggests that improving energy efficiency in buildings is a quick win in reducing energy demand and calls on the government to provide a costed, long-term plan for meeting its targets and supporting households in making sustainable choices.

Brian Berry, the chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders, criticises the Energy Security Strategy for not adequately addressing energy consumption in homes. While he welcomes the zero per cent VAT on energy efficiency improvements, he argues that a broader strategy focused on retrofitting and improving the energy efficiency of homes would have a more immediate impact in reducing consumption, boosting the economy, and providing cost savings to homeowners.

Peter Sibley, the energy sector lead at Hydrock and a member of the Nuclear Industry Council, appreciates the government's recognition of nuclear power as a central component of the UK's future energy infrastructure. He believes that a diverse energy portfolio, combining nuclear and renewable sources, offers secure and low-carbon energy with long-term cost competitiveness. Sibley emphasises the need for collaboration between the government, industry, and investors to create favourable conditions for successful nuclear development at various scales.

The Energy Security Strategy has prompted discussions among experts and industry representatives regarding the importance of swiftly implementing credible plans to achieve the UK's energy objectives. Stakeholders stress the need for clarity, specific timelines, and efficient coordination to ensure the strategy's success. The strategy aims to reduce reliance on expensive fossil fuels, increase the share of low-carbon electricity, and create clean jobs.

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