Britain eyeing nuclear, wind and fossil fuels in fight for energy security

Along with the buildup of nuclear power, the British Energy Security Strategy calls for up to 50 GW of offshore wind and 10 GW of hydrogen by 2030, half of which will be so-called green hydrogen.

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The UK government has revealed details of its long-awaited “daring” energy security strategy, but critics have ridiculed its inclusion of fossil fuels and what they see as a lack of ambition.

In a press release on Wednesday, the government announced a “significant acceleration of homegrown power in Britain’s plan for greater energy independence”.

The plans, known as the UK’s Energy Security Strategy, mean the UK will produce more “cleaner” and “affordable” energy, the government said, as the country seeks to “improve long-term energy independence, security and prosperity.” “

The government is currently aiming for 24 gigawatts of nuclear power by 2050, which it says will be about a quarter of the country’s projected electricity demand. As part of the strategy, up to eight reactors could be developed.

In addition to nuclear power, plans include up to 50 GW of offshore wind and 10 GW of low-carbon hydrogen capacity by 2030, at least half of which will come from so-called green hydrogen. will increase fivefold by 2035, compared to 14 GW today.

When it comes to onshore wind power – a point of contention between Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party – the government said it would consult on “developing partnerships with a limited number of supporting communities that want to host new onshore wind infrastructure in exchange for a guaranteed reduction in electricity bills.” . .”

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However, in a move that sparked outrage among environmentalists, the government also said its strategy would be to “support domestic oil and gas production in the near future,” with a planned licensing round for new oil and gas projects in the North Sea. to launch this fall. The government has said its strategy could see 95% of the UK’s electricity be “low-carbon” by 2030.

“The simple truth is that the more cheap and clean energy we produce within our borders, the less we will be affected by fossil fuel prices set by global markets that we have no control over.” — Kwasi Kwarteng, Minister for business and energy of the country. , said.

“Scaling up cheap renewables and new nuclear power plants while maximizing production in the North Sea is the best and only way to ensure our energy independence in the coming years.”

The release of the strategy comes at a time when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has heightened concerns about energy security. Russia is a major supplier of oil and gas, and its actions in Ukraine have led a number of countries to try to find ways to reduce their dependence on it.

In response to the invasion, the UK said it would “phasing out imports of Russian oil” by the end of this year, which supplies 8% of total oil demand. Russian natural gas is “less than 4%” of its supply, the government said, adding that ministers are “exploring options for further cuts.”

Fool’s gold?

While business secretary Kwarteng was optimistic about the strategy and its prospects, the plan drew the ire of some quarters.

“This strategy is failing because it doesn’t do the most obvious things that could reduce energy demand and protect households from price spikes,” said Danny Gross, energy campaigner for Friends of the Earth.

“Digging into the UK’s renewable energy treasure trove is the surest way to meet our energy needs, not fool’s gold in the form of fossil fuels.”

While the acceleration in offshore wind development has been “welcome”, Gross said ministers need to “go further and make the most of the UK’s huge onshore wind resources”.

Meanwhile, Lisa Fisher, program manager at climate change think tank E3G, argues that the future of the North Sea is in renewable energy, not oil and gas.

“The push for offshore wind power is welcome, but the simultaneous use of oil and gas will be a brake on the UK’s path to an affordable and clean energy future,” she said.

“Moral and economic madness”

The UK Energy Security Strategy is published the same week that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its latest report.

“Limiting global warming will require major transformations in the energy sector,” the IPCC press release says. “This will require a significant reduction in the use of fossil fuels, widespread electrification, energy efficiency and the use of alternative fuels (such as hydrogen).”

Commenting on the report, UN Secretary General António Guterres did not object. “Climate activists are sometimes portrayed as dangerous radicals,” he said. “But the really dangerous radicals are the countries that increase the production of fossil fuels.”

In March, the International Energy Agency reported that in 2021, energy-related carbon emissions rose to their highest level in history. The IEA found that global energy-related CO2 emissions increased by 6% in 2021 to a record high of 36.3 billion metric tons.

That same month, Guterres also warned that the planet emerged from last year’s COP26 summit in Glasgow with “some naïve optimism” and “a lunatic approaching a climate catastrophe.”

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