New oil fields part of plan for energy self-sufficiency
A new licensing round for North Sea oil and gas projects is planned for the autumn to cover the “nearer term” needs of the country.
The decision, included in the new energy strategy, will prove controversial following commitments made on climate change.
The UK government insists that there is a need to protect domestic energy supplies and that oil and gas can produce the revenues to invest in cleaner sources.
Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng will confirm that the government aims to make 95% of electricity low carbon by 2030.
There will be a new body, Great British Nuclear, to build up the UK’s nuclear capacity to 24 gigawatts (GW) of electricity by 2050 coming from the source of power, 25% of the projected electricity demand.
Up to eight reactors, equivalent to one reactor a year instead of one a decade, will be built, though any plans to build in Scotland is likely to be met with fierce resistance from hardliners in the SNP government. Scottish Energy Secretary Michael Matheson has insisted that the government is not in favour of nuclear power and does not see it as part of the energy mix.
On offshore wind, the plan outlines the ambition of producing up to 50GW of energy by 2030, which the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis) said would be more than enough to power every home in the UK.
About 5GW should come from floating offshore wind and planning reforms will reduce approval times for new wind farms from four years to one year.
However, it is thought that arguments over onshore wind farms was a factor in delaying the energy strategy. Some ministers are said to have been opposed to more turbines in sensitive rural areas.
The government has already commissioned a review into the science around fracking, which could pave the way to lifting the moratorium on the controversial process, imposed over the tremors it caused.
A £30m competition to manufacture heat pumps is also to be launched, and there are ambitions to increase solar capacity with a consultation of the rules for solar projects.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “We’re setting out bold plans to scale up and accelerate affordable, clean and secure energy made in Britain, for Britain, from new nuclear to offshore wind, in the decade ahead.
“This will reduce our dependence on power sources exposed to volatile international prices we cannot control, so we can enjoy greater energy self-sufficiency with cheaper bills.”
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “We need to protect ourselves from price spikes in the future by accelerating our move towards cleaner, cheaper, home-grown energy.
“The simple truth is that the more cheap, clean power we generate within our borders, the less exposed we will be to eye-watering fossil fuel prices set by global markets we can’t control.
“Scaling up cheap renewables and new nuclear, while maximising North Sea production, is the best and only way to ensure our energy independence over the coming years.”
But Ed Miliband, Labour’s shadow climate change and net-zero secretary, said: “The Government’s energy relaunch is in disarray.
“Boris Johnson has completely caved to his own backbenchers and now, ludicrously, his own energy strategy has failed on the sprint we needed on onshore wind and solar, the cheapest, cleanest forms of homegrown power.
“This relaunch will do nothing for the millions of families now facing an energy bills crisis.
Rain Newton-Smith, CBI Chief Economist, said: “This Strategy sets an ambitious bar for a more resilient, low carbon energy system for the future. Bold words must now be matched by bold actions from the Government.
“The proof will be in the Strategy’s delivery, in partnership between business and Government. Business believes greater energy independence must go hand-in-hand with delivering a net-zero, higher growth economy.
“Increasing our domestic generating capacity is an essential part of dealing with the current energy crisis. Big bets on nuclear will provide clean and stable power for consumers and businesses.
“This scale of ambition should be replicated for other renewable technologies like onshore wind. Commitment to planning reforms and rapid approvals is what will really make the difference now.
“While it’s welcome this Strategy addresses some long-standing challenges, companies are continuing to really struggle with increased wholesale energy costs right now.
“The Government’s next step should be to provide immediate cash flow support for firms through the Recovery Loan Scheme – and move to cut bills for Energy Intensive Industries to maintain competitiveness.
“Kickstarting an ambitious national programme for household energy efficiency upgrades should follow this Strategy too – making people’s bills more affordable and cutting carbon across the country.”