The UK Government’s Energy Security Strategy was published this month following much anticipation and speculation about its contents. Intended to assist the UK in responding to the energy crisis and reduce reliance on foreign imports, the Government predicts the implementation of the Strategy will result in 95% of our electricity being low-carbon by 2030.
Any measures that lead to a cleaner energy supply and a more secure future are of course welcome, particularly in light of the IPCC’s latest report that emissions must peak by 2025 to have any chance of limiting global warming to that crucial 1.5C target. As such, the Strategy does offer encouraging commitments in sectors such as offshore wind and hydrogen, which will go some way to boosting our renewable energy supply and could even place the UK at the forefront of these developing industries.
In other areas, the Strategy seems to lack the same level of urgency in its pledges. It was only a few weeks ago that we welcomed the news that the prohibitive planning restrictions on onshore wind in England could be relaxed in the Strategy. Despite this, and due to growing pressure from backbenchers against the technology, the final result for onshore wind is lacklustre, committing only to consult on developing local partnerships for a limited number of supportive communities in return for benefits such as lower energy bills.
Indeed, the core focus of the Strategy seems to be long-term security, with a key push for nuclear which, whilst low-carbon, takes significantly longer to build and is expensive compared to more widespread renewable sources. That is not to say that nuclear should not have a place in our energy mix. Indeed, a more diverse mix of technologies only increases our energy security as we make the most of the low-carbon resources available to us. However, achieving energy independence via the nuclear route is going to require an immense level of financing, a fact that the Government is undoubtedly all too aware of as it calls on the Financial Conduct Authority to support investment in this new approach.
In order to get the most from these opportunities, significant investment will also need to be put into the infrastructure to support the increase in generation. In areas of the country that have previously hosted significant renewable energy projects, the grid is already at capacity, impeding further development. It is a promising sign that the pipeline of energy storage projects has doubled to 32.1GW in the space of a year, allowing the grid to be more effectively utilised but urgent investment in the grid itself, particularly in remote parts of the UK, is still needed to unlock further potential renewable energy projects.
If the Government remains truly committed to delivering on the long-awaited Energy Security Strategy, then we now have a real opportunity to both boost our energy security and achieve our vital decarbonisation targets. Naturally, this also presents huge opportunities for all corners of the renewable energy sector. As a leading asset manager and a developer of successful wind, solar and biomass projects, Eco2 is always looking for an opportunity to contribute to the UK’s goals of decarbonisation and energy independence. If you have a project or asset that we could help with, get in touch.