How will the Energy Security Strategy be delivered?
The UK now needs a "credible plan" to deliver its energy aims, following yesterday's publication of the Energy Security Strategy.
The new strategy -which sets out plans to boost nuclear energy, while also investing in wind, solar and hydrogen- comes as a result of rising global energy prices, provoked by surging demand after the pandemic as well as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Now that it has been revealed, experts have emphasised the importance of ensuring its proposals can be delivered and the need to move things forward quickly.
“The UK’s energy targets are increasingly ambitious, and deadlines for delivery are brought ever-nearer, yet a credible plan is equally pressing to ensure the build rate of infrastructure matches the pace required to achieve these goals," said Atkins nuclear & power EMEA managing director Chris Ball.
"The urgency of this plan, underpinned by sustained policy, cannot be under-stated."
Similarly Institution of Civil Engineers director of policy Chris Richards stressed that "it is key that we swiftly see policy turn into action or there will be no change", while BDB Pitmans partner Angus Walker highlighted the ambiguous nature of the strategy, which he said is "at odds with net zero and urgency".
"Fracking and North Sea oil extraction are back on the table and onshore wind, the fastest and cheapest type of renewable electricity, continues to be discouraged because of outdated views of its costs and acceptability," he said.
"While encouraging on offshore wind, hydrogen, solar and electricity networks, the strategy is full of statements of intent (it says ‘we will’ 49 times) but there is little on when or how the government will implement the aspirations.”
Overall, the strategy aims to wean Britain off expensive fossil fuels, which are subject to volatile gas prices set by international markets, and boost diverse sources of homegrown energy for greater energy security in the long-term. It could see 95% of electricity by 2030 being low carbon.
Ball added that the plans should be delivered in "the most cost-effective way to ensure affordability is prioritised as much as sustainability and security of supply".
He said: "This will partly be achieved by the coordination of a holistic plan, as recognised in the announcement of a Future System Operator to oversee the transformation of the UK’s energy system.
"Efficiencies can also be found in a fleet approach to new nuclear, ensuring supply chains deliver both large and small nuclear plants in the most cost-effective way. The creation of a new government body for nuclear could help to coordinate the roll-out of new projects to ensure this."
Meanwhile, Turner & Townsend UK managing director Patricia Moore said that the government has "presented an ‘everything’ plan with all energy options back on the table" - but this in itself poses a challenge.
“The challenge with an ‘everything’ plan is working out where to start – and critically how the funding and phasing will be organised for the pipeline of major projects that are being promised," she said. "Now we have the strategy, government and business must create an integrated, cross-industry programmatic approach with the right controls and oversight in place to deliver net zero infrastructure and investment in clean energy technology at pace and scale.”
Moore added that "initiatives like new nuclear require huge investment that is only possible if there is sufficient commitment, clarity and certainty on the forward programme stretching way beyond single election cycles".
The strategy will increase the number of clean jobs in the UK, supporting 90,000 jobs in offshore wind by 2028 (30,000 more than previously expected) 10,000 jobs in solar power by 2028 (almost double previous expectations) and 12,000 jobs in the UK hydrogen industry by 2030 (3,000 more than expected).
WSP head of energy Fiachra Ó Cléirigh said that these new jobs are crucial.
“Deliverability with skills, resource and supply chains already stretched is a rate limiting critical factor," he said. "Support for over 40,000 more jobs in clean industries will significantly aid the growth of the UK’s green economy and enable communities across the country to benefit from the many opportunities our energy transition will provide.”
According to Association for Consultancy and Engineering chief executive Stephen Marcos Jones, the workforce is ready to go.
“Be it wind, solar, hydrogen or nuclear energy, our members are critical to the successful delivery of complex infrastructure projects," he said. "They stand ready to work in close partnership with government in the creation and design of a more secure, and less carbon intensive, domestic energy system."
Aecom senior vice president - energy Jeff Woodward
“At last, industry has a clear framework on which to focus investment and accelerate implementation. As we have seen with the current energy crisis, boosting the UK’s energy independence is vital for protecting our economy from future market shocks. It is therefore encouraging to see support for a mix of clean energy solutions in today’s much-anticipated Energy Security Strategy.
“Scaling up offshore wind, which is relatively quick to get up and running, is welcome news and will play an important role in boosting renewable supply in the short term. The aim to double low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030 using excess offshore wind power is also a positive move. One of hydrogen’s most appealing qualities is its ability to act as a store for electricity production, which would fill gaps in renewable energy supply. Boosting its production is a significant signpost from government that it recognises the long-term value of green hydrogen.
“Importantly, today’s energy measures should be coupled with a commitment to tackle energy efficiency. Improving energy efficiency across the UK’s building stock also has a critical role in delivering energy security and reaching net zero.
“The focus now must be on delivery and we cannot afford to lose momentum. Government will need to build confidence, establishing the right financial and operational climate to enable industry to step up and deliver.”
Civil Engineering Contractors Association director of operations Marie-Claude Hemming
“The plans announced by the UK government today are only ambitious in that they rise to the challenge facing the nation in terms of energy security in a rapidly changing world. The changing geopolitical situation caused by Russia’s war against Ukraine underlines the need for the UK to be energy-secure, but this must only be done in the context of the imperative to achieve net zero and rise to the climate challenge.
“We are particularly glad to see that the UK government is placing a renewed emphasis on new nuclear power, with the creation of a new government body ‘Great British Nuclear’, which will be set up immediately to bring forward new projects, backed by substantial funding, and the launch of the £120M Future Nuclear Enabling Fund later this month.
“CECA has long argued that new nuclear must be an important part of the UK’s future energy mix, which must be based on a mixed portfolio of generation in order to keep the lights on and sustain our low-carbon future.
Furthermore, the government’s strategy will create thousands of highly-skilled jobs across the country, to the wider benefit of the economy as a whole. CECA members stand poised to deliver on the UK Government’s plans for a secure, low-carbon energy future, and we look forward to working with them, government at all levels, and all other stakeholders to realise this ambitious vision in the months and years ahead.”
National Infrastructure Commission chair Sir John Armitt
“The government should be credited with its scale of ambition to expand offshore wind and solar generation. The challenge is to take these stretching targets and turn them into delivery of cheaper electricity into people’s homes as quickly as possible.
“The steps on onshore wind are unlikely to unlock significant new capacity rapidly, while government’s aim to build more major nuclear plants will also take many years to realise.
“Alongside shifting supply away from fossil fuels, some of the quickest wins can be found in improving energy efficiency by better insulating our homes and public buildings to cut overall demand. The potential benefits are now bigger than ever, and we again call on government to set out a costed, long term plan for meeting its own targets and help households make the right choices for their pocket and the planet.”
Federation of Master Builders chief executive Brian Berry
“The Energy Security Strategy completely misses the mark in tackling energy consumption in our homes. After the disappointment of the Heat and Buildings Strategy this was an opportunity for government to implement a National Retrofit Strategy, focussing on improving the energy efficiency of the UK’s draughty and leaky homes.
"While the strategy does deliver 0% VAT on energy efficiency improvements to properties, a welcome move that the FMB has long been campaigning for, this only helps those with the money to pay in the first place. A broader, insulation led, retrofit strategy would have been an immediate solution to reduce energy consumption, boost the economy and importantly, help save homeowners money on their bills during a cost-of-living crises.”
Hydrock energy sector lead and Nuclear Industry Council member Peter Sibley
“It’s no surprise, and very reassuring, that BEIS is launching an Energy Security Strategy given recent geopolitical events and fears surrounding the UK’s domestic energy supplies. From the war in Ukraine to rising wholesale energy costs, energy security should be a top priority for the government, alongside the development of a diverse, decarbonised energy infrastructure portfolio that allows the UK to reach its ambitious net zero targets.
“Nuclear is rightly being placed as a central part of our future energy infrastructure. It’s great to see the sector positively portrayed as an integral part of the solution, particularly as other European countries, such as Germany, have begun to phase out its use. The UK has an opportunity to lead the way with a diverse portfolio of complementary energy infrastructure, combining firm nuclear derived energy with weather-dependent renewables, which together offer supply security, low carbon credentials and long-term price competitiveness.
“However, to deliver the government’s new strategy, nuclear development needs to take place at all scales - from gigawatt scale developments such as Sizewell C, through to small and advanced modular reactors of various designs. The aspirational targets to generate 15GW of electricity from nuclear capacity by 2035 and provide 25% of all energy by 2050 really shines light on the level work required. Collaboration between the government, industry and investors is crucial, to establish the right conditions for successful implementation.
“But this clear intent to increase our nuclear capabilities, with several new plants being constructed by the middle of the century, is something that should excite us all – it’s a great starting point for delivering a future-proofed energy portfolio for the UK”.
08 APR, 2022 BY CATHERINE KENNEDY