The government has just published its ‘British Energy Security Strategy’, following an alarming IPCC report publication, and growing concerns about the energy supply chain from Russia. The strategy aims to make Britain’s energy infrastructure and supply more domestic, and lower carbon emissions.
The plan sets goals for 95% of British electricity to be low-carbon by 2030; 50Gw will come from primarily offshore wind; 24Gw from nuclear by 2050, with 8 reactors being built; 14Gw is currently generated from solar, the government wants that to increase fivefold by 2035; and a new licencing round for North Sea oil exploration this summer, which may become more expensive as not much is known about reserves in the sea and so could potentially lead to stranded assets.
In the short term, the strategy does not address the rising cost of energy directly, although fuel poverty has increased considerably due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
A highly efficient, and low carbon solution to fuel poverty, particularly in the UK climate, is insulating the existing building stock. Due to poor insulation British homes lose 3°C for every 1°C German homes lose. However, this fell out of the scope of the strategy. One of the government’s initiatives, as set out in the chancellor’s Spring Statement, included the subsidisation of heat pumps. However, heat pumps do not work efficiently if they are trying to heat draughty homes that lose a lot of heat.
Nuclear power was a strong focal point in the strategy, and propositions for a £2bilion investment have been suggested in existing and new nuclear technologies. The major benefit of nuclear is that it gives a consistent baseload that is currently only covered majorly by fossil fuel. It is less carbon-intensive, however, there are environmental concerns due to the hazardous radioactive waste that is produced and stored within the ground or at the seabed, potentially causing environmental harm if there is any radiation leakage. Modular reactors are smaller and cheaper to build and they produce less power but the technology is largely unproven.
Planning regulations and local councils have historically swung against onshore wind farms, due to disruption of the landscape. This is compounded by the effect of wind farms on house prices, reducing value due to the “visual impacts of wind turbines”.¹
The government also proposes a doubling of hydrogen production, green and blue, green being produced with renewable energy and blue being produced from fossil fuels, with carbon capture and storage (CCS) in the process flow. Hydrogen may be leveraged by industries that struggle to transition from fossil fuels due to their fossil-reliant operations and infrastructure.
Do you think the plan will help alleviate fuel poverty and decarbonise the grid? Let us know in the comments.
Written By Neil McLoughlin
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¹Collinson, P., 2014. Windfarms can reduce house prices by up to 12%, says LSE. [online] the Guardian. Available at: <https://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/apr/08/windfarms-reduce-house-prices-compensation> [Accessed 8 April 2022].