The UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised “clean, affordable, secure power” for future generations in the government’s new energy strategy.
The British Energy Security Strategy, published on Thursday, sets out plans to boost Britain’s domestic energy production including nuclear, low carbon hydrogen, wind, and solar.
Another licensing round will be launched for domestic gas production, the government said, adding that it’s “remaining open-minded” about fracking for shale gas in the North Sea.
The long-awaited plan was published as western countries wrestle with high prices and how to reduce reliance on Russian oil and gas.
Responding to criticisms that the strategy doesn’t do much to help families with rising costs, ministers defended the medium-term plan, saying the government was “already doing a huge amount to help people with the immediate cost of living and of course we are going to do more.”
Under the new plans, the government said it hopes to make 95 percent of British electricity low-carbon by 2030, and completely decarbonise the British electricity system, “subject to security of supply.”
Once again calling Britain “the Saudi Arabia of wind power,” the government said it will cut the red tapes including reducing the approval times for new offshore wind farms from four years to one year. It envisaged the delivery of up to 50 gigawatts (GW) of electricity—which it said will be more than enough to power every home in the UK”—by 2050.
Up to 5 GW of offshore wind power will be from “floating offshore wind in deeper seas,” according to the government’s plan.
The government also said it will launch consultations with “a limited number of supportive communities who wish to host new onshore wind infrastructure in return for guaranteed lower energy bills.”
The current 14 GW of solar capacity in the UK is expected to increase five-fold by 2035, the government said.
To ensure grid security “even when the sun is not shining, or the wind is not blowing,” a new body, Great British Nuclear, will be launched to bolster the UK’s nuclear capacity with the hope of up to 24 gigawatts (GW) of electricity by 2050 coming from the source of power, 25 percent of the projected electricity demand.
It is hoped the focus on nuclear will deliver up to eight reactors, equivalent to one reactor a year instead of one a decade.
The strategy also confirmed the intention to push ahead with a nuclear project at the Wylfa site on the island of Anglesey, off the north-west coast of Wales.
The government said it also aims to double its goal of low carbon hydrogen production to 10 GW by 2030, with at least half of that coming from green hydrogen.
During the transition, the government said it will support the production of domestic oil and gas in the nearer term.
To quickly put more domestic gas on the grid, the North Sea Transition Authority plans to launch another licensing round in the autumn, the government said, adding that producing gas in the UK has a lower carbon footprint than importing it from abroad.
On Tuesday, the government ordered a review of the latest scientific evidence on fracking, suggesting it may lift a moratorium on shale gas extraction, if the practice is deemed “safe, sustainable, and of minimal disturbance to those living and working nearby.”
The moratorium was imposed in England in 2019 after two minor earthquakes were attributed to fracking operations.
A £30 million ($39 million) competition to manufacture heat pumps is also to be launched, with a VAT cut for insulation and heat pumps.
Johnson said the plan is about building “a power supply that’s made in Britain, for Britain,” and keeping energy prices down “for the long term.”
The plan was welcomed by offshore wind firm Orsted, trade association Hydrogen UK, Shell, and EDF, among others.
Nuclear Industry Association chief executive Tom Greatrex said the new nuclear target of 24 GW by 2050 “is a vital step forward for UK energy security and our net zero future.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the energy strategy is “not enough” and is “too little, too late” to help families with rising costs.
“All we’ve got today is a cobbled-together list of things that could and should have been done over the last 10 to 12 years, and it doesn’t even tackle really important things like insulating homes, which could save £400 [$522] on everybody’s bill,” he said.
Speaking to Sky News, Kwarteng acknowledged that the strategy is “more of a medium term, three, four or five-year answer,” but added it “doesn’t mean that we can’t address” the soaring energy prices.
“It’s really important that we get an energy strategy, an energy policy, that means we can have more security and independence in the years ahead,” he said.
Johnson also said the strategy is a long-term plan focusing on energy supply, “undoing the mistakes of the past and taking the big decisions now.”
He said the government was “already doing a huge amount to help people with the immediate cost of living and of course we are going to do more.”
PA media contributed to this report.