Strathclyde Centre for Energy Policy responds to Energy Security Strategy

Professor Karen Turner of the University of Strathclyde’s Centre for Energy Policy

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THE UK Government’s energy security strategy has been published.  At its heart is an ambition to ‘boost long-term energy independence, security and prosperity’ for Great Britain, moving away from reliance on volatile international markets.

This is a reliance that has become even more problematic in the light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the impact on global energy prices. 

The strategy identifies nuclear, hydrogen, offshore wind, solar and continued oil and gas licencing in UK waters as the means through which Government believes security, independence and sustainability of the UK’s energy supply can be achieved. It sets out the following ambitions/targets:

  • Nuclear to generate 24GW by 2050, fulfilling 25% of projected electricity demand.
  • Offshore wind to generate 50GW by 2030.
  • Increase UK’s current 14GW of solar capacity.
  • Up to 10GW of low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030, with at least half coming from green hydrogen.

The strategy also announced plans for a £30m Heat Pump Investment Accelerator Competition this year in 2022.  The aim is to encourage the manufacture of British heat pumps on the basis of helping reduce demand for gas through availability of an alternative type of heating system to enable large scale household shift over from the current dominant use of gas-fuelled boilers in delivering domestic heating. 

In response to the energy security strategy, University of Strathclyde’s Centre for Energy Policy Director, Professor Karen Turner said:

“It’s good that this strategy has been published and that it sets out a number of paths to greater security around the supply of low carbon and renewable energy in the UK. However, while the attempt to address the supply challenge is essential and welcome, there needs to be much greater focus on the question of demand.”

“Here the announcement on heat pumps does bring some focus in the strategy on the demand side. However, this is a bigger and more complex challenge than simply making alternative heat systems available: they need to be affordable and accessible.“

“Moreover, heat pumps operate best in better insulated and more energy efficient homes, which is the very thing people need now to reduce their energy bills and limit their exposure to all types of price shocks, including but not limited to the current problems with gas, as the dominant heating fuel in UK homes.”

“As it stands, the way in which we live and do business in the UK means that our demand for fossil fuels, sourced from both home and abroad continues apace. Domestic heating is just one such example. All types of businesses across the country are exposed to the current energy crisis. Oil and gas are still enmeshed across our supply chains and, with the volatility we have seen in prices, this leads to serious impacts for the cost of living and doing business across our whole economy.”

“The fundamental question – which is critical to the UK’s long-term energy security and that the strategy fails to adequately grapple with – is how do we change this, at scale and rapidly, in ways that are affordable and that operate within the constraints of a global environment that cannot withstand much further warming?”

“Affordability and sustaining the competitiveness of UK businesses must be a key component of any attempt to strengthen energy security and drive the transition to a sustainable and resilient economy in the UK, especially at a time when the cost-of-living and doing-business pressures are mounting. This is exacerbated by rising oil and gas prices, increases in national insurance and policy decisions, for example, on banning red diesel in the construction sector, which will lead to increased costs for industries that in turn will be passed on to consumers, without necessarily reducing emissions.”

“While urgent support with the cost of energy will be needed for the most vulnerable in the short-term, if costs are to be mitigated and/or offset in the longer term, timely action is required to increase productivity and efficiency, particularly in delivering and using secure low carbon options. For example, supporting and incentivising people to make energy efficiency improvements to their homes through long-term public support and investment.”

“Our research has shown that this sort of action can bring real economic benefits – GDP, jobs, etc – and build the confidence and business plans that will allow supply chains and new regional and national industry to develop around delivering vital low-carbon solutions.  Crucially, it will also enable businesses, supply chains and people to become more resilient to cost and price pressures and offer opportunities for the UK to gain competitive advantage in delivering the kind of low carbon goods, services, and technologies that all nations in the world will need going forward.  It is this type of innovative and joined-up thinking that we urgently need from government, but unfortunately this focus appears to be lacking from the energy security strategy.” 

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