A few months ago, the UK hosted the COP26 international climate conference and London’s energy strategy focused on the transition to carbon neutrality. Since then, the war in Ukraine and inflation have changed the situation.
The Conservative government on Thursday unveiled a new energy security strategy that aims to accelerate nuclear, wind, solar, as well as fossil fuels in the North Sea, which has drawn criticism from NGOs and the opposition.
However, there is “nothing at all” about reducing the priority of the UK’s climate commitments, Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng assured Thursday morning.
But “given what is happening in the world (…) we are also working to restore its energy independence for the UK”, he justified. The first round of allocating operating licenses for hydrocarbons in the North Sea will start this summer.
The country will “never again be blackmailed by people like (Russian President) Vladimir Putin,” added Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is targeting “nearly half of the country’s energy capacity coming from offshore wind from ‘here 2030’.
Johnson also plans to “completely revive the nuclear industry, which I fear was more or less doomed in this country,” he added during a visit to the construction site of the Hinkley Point nuclear power plant. , the only one under construction in the country. †
Critics on Thursday targeted the choice to produce more hydrocarbons, but also a strategy that will take years to pay off, with no short-term action to cut the burning Britons’ energy bills.
Despite “some improvements to renewable energy targets”, the government has “given priority on slow solutions”, regrets Greenpeace UK.
The new plan “supports new oil and gas permits”, in contrast to the country’s climate goals, tackles the NGO, stressing that these new drilling “take an average of 28 years to start”.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday called new investments in fossil fuels “economic and moral folly” in light of the climate emergency.
But Kwasi Kwarteng no longer hesitates to confirm, on the contrary, that it would be “absolutely crazy” for the United Kingdom to “turn off the tap on (its) national gas source in such an uncertain world in such an uncertain world”.
However, under pressure from Britons to choose between heating or food, the minister admits that more local drilling will not lower gas prices, which follow international market prices. “So we need to generate more electricity in Britain” with renewables and nuclear power, he stresses.
Obsolete Nuclear Fleet
The UK plans to accelerate development of the atom and is planning up to eight new reactors at some of the eight designated nuclear sites by 2050, aiming to meet 25% of electricity demand.
But its strategy is mainly based on small modular reactors built by Rolls Royce, which will take years of development: the first will not be operational before the early 2030s.
Britain currently has 15 reactors at eight sites, but many are reaching end-of-life and Hinkley point, a project run by EDF and China’s CGN, has seen its costs rise and will not open before 2026.
London aims to produce 95% low-carbon electricity by 2030. But while the role of gas in the country will gradually diminish, it will not be gone by then and its emissions will have to be offset by carbon capture strategies.
“The new pledges are extremely ambitious,” but it’s “disappointing not to see more (announcements) on energy performance and household support” to cut bills immediately, says the Climate Change Commission, a government agency responsible for advising from the government.
In the longer term, London is also looking at the promising technology of ‘green’ hydrogen and tidal energy.
Conversely, hydraulic fracturing and onshore wind will not play a central role due to “strong local resistance,” the energy minister recently indicated.
However, onshore wind is “the cheapest and fastest source of energy” to deploy, Ed Miliband, head of climate change for the Labor opposition, criticized Thursday.
But this energy “has been blocked since 2015” because of “a few Conservative MPs holding the government’s energy policy hostage,” he said.