Energy Security Strategy: Industry reaction

The government has committed to deliver 24GW of new nuclear generation by 2040 and raised the 2030 targets for offshore wind and hydrogen production to 50GW and 10GW respectively as part of the prime minister’s new Energy Security Strategy.

Whilst the heightened ambitions have been welcomed by some, many industry figures have also criticised of the lack of further commitments on key technologies such as energy efficiency and onshore wind that they argue offer the fastest and most cost-effective ways to wean the UK off imported fossil fuels and reduce bills.

REA chief executive Dr Nina Skorupska described the strategy as “wholly inadequate”, whilst KPMG head of energy and natural resources Simon Virley lamented the “missed opportunity”. Eon UK chief Michael Lewis said the plan “condemns thousands more customers to living in cold and draughty homes, wasting energy and paying more than they need to for their heating.”

Utility Week presents a round-up of the flood of responses to the strategy:

Simon Virley, vice chair and head of energy and natural resources, KPMG

“The ambition in the government’s Energy Security Strategy is laudable and the decision to double down on net zero the right one.  However, this strategy won’t get us to net zero at least cost to consumers.  Given the importance of tackling the cost of living crisis, this is a missed opportunity.

“According to BEIS, over 80% of the public support onshore wind and it is the cheapest form of low carbon electricity. By not pursuing it actively, we are making the transition to net zero more expensive than it needs to be.

“The best way to reduce energy bills permanently, cut emissions, and reduce our dependence on imported gas is a step change in energy efficiency.  Other European countries, like Holland, France and Germany, are doing this as a matter of urgency as part of their response to the Russia/Ukraine crisis.  Yet the UK Strategy is almost silent on measures to improve energy efficiency.

“New nuclear can play a role in delivering large volumes of low carbon electricity.  But any new nuclear power stations beyond Hinkley Point C are likely to be more than 10 years away from generating any power.  As the old nuclear stations come off the system, along with biomass power plants, support for which ends in 2027, then we could well see the gap filled by unabated gas, pushing up the carbon intensity of our power system just at the time the government is encouraging people to buy EVs and heat pumps.

“Raising the ambition yet further on offshore wind is all well and good and the appetite from investors in renewables remains strong.  But unless the non-financial barriers to renewables deployment, like planning, consenting and timely grid connections, are tackled as a matter of urgency, it is unclear how the current rate of deployment can speed up significantly.”

Mike Thompson, director of analysis, Climate Change Committee

“The government has doubled down on its Net Zero Strategy today by accelerating plans to secure clean, green, UK-made energy.

“For perhaps the first time, the government has made commitments that clearly go beyond CCC proposals in key low-carbon technologies: offshore wind, nuclear, hydrogen. The new commitments are hugely ambitious – they would see the UK produce more electricity from offshore wind in 2030 than it has produced from gas in any year in history. Government, business and industry will need to focus relentlessly on delivery at a scale and pace as yet unseen.

“Recognising the difficulties in implementing effective policy quickly, it is still disappointing not to see more on energy efficiency and on supporting households to make changes that can cut their energy bills now. Government has reiterated its commitment to do more and we look forward to seeing details in the coming months.

“Today’s proposals focus on energy supply and would bring us closer to meeting the Net Zero challenge. To shore up the UK’s energy security, they must be delivered alongside other plans in the Net Zero Strategy on how we use energy in our vehicles, our buildings and our industry. Energy security must also account for the changing climate. Adaptation will need more focus in the execution of today’s strategy than seen in its publication today.”

Michael Lewis, chief executive, Eon UK

“We needed an Energy Security Strategy to set a course for a zero carbon future and to help protect customers from the savage increases in energy bills sparked by the global energy crisis. We got neither.

“Energy efficiency is the fabled ‘silver bullet’ for a future energy system: it cuts bills and carbon emissions today, it creates jobs and it reduces our reliance on foreign gas. By abandoning any extra commitment to helping people to improve their homes, today’s announcement condemns thousands more customers to living in cold and draughty homes, wasting energy and paying more than they need to for their heating.

“We all know energy bills could rise sharply again ahead of winter. The Energy Security Strategy was a chance to help people prepare and ensure they pay less should the worst happen but there is little in today’s announcement that will deliver a solution this decade, let alone this year. We’ll continue to urge government to step up and invest more in an expanded Energy Company Obligation that helps struggling households live in warmer and cheaper homes.”

Dr Nina Skorupska, chief executive, Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology (REA)

“The Energy Security Strategy is wholly inadequate. If ever there was a time for the government to be bold, this was it, but they have failed to rise to the challenge facing the country.

“Of course, we welcome commitments on solar, hydrogen and offshore wind, but the government’s plans will lock the UK into more expensive, longer to build, non-renewable power sources. It ignores a huge swathe of other renewable technologies and the approach to onshore wind is totally inadequate.

“The government also needed to turbocharge support for technologies which could tackle the cost of living crisis, and not just focus solely on developments which won’t come to fruition for another 5, 10, 15 years. For example, a £200 million increase in the ECO home energy efficiency scheme would have helped thousands of households save around £600 a year on their energy bills. The Treasury’s refusal to offer this support will condemn people to continued financial hardship for the foreseeable future.

“The UK needs to move rapidly to an energy system which is independent, secure and stable – this strategy will simply not achieve that.”

Sepi Golzari-Munro, deputy director, Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit

“Soaring gas prices are responsible for adding at least £500 to energy bills, forcing another 2.5million households into fuel poverty. Without help to insulate their homes to bring down gas bills there may be little prospect they can afford to keep their homes warm.

“Rumours that Chancellor Rishi Sunak blocked moves to boost the successful ECO energy efficiency scheme that’s saved low income households £1.2 billion on their energy bills this year, could raise tough questions as the gas price crisis continues to bite.

“It’s all the more striking, since insulation is the public’s top priority in the current gas crisis with 84% backing it as the best way to cut our reliance on gas and cut bills. With any extra UK gas production having no effect on prices, it begs the question whether having gas that households can’t afford to use counts as ‘energy security’ to them.”

Dr Simon Cran-McGreehin, head of analysis, Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit

“As business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng MP has rightly pointed out over recent weeks, renewables are vital for improving the UK’s energy security and cutting costs. The boost to offshore wind will help to bring down bills, nudging expensive gas power stations off the power grid.

“But because of the apparent success of a small number of backbench MPs turning the government against onshore wind, those same politicians may now have to explain to their constituents why they have locked in higher electricity bills. Onshore is cheap and popular with 80% of people across all political persuasions backing it, which rises to 87% if they can get a discount on their bill from nearby wind farms.”

Sir John Armitt, chair, National Infrastructure Commission

“The government should be credited with its scale of ambition to expand offshore wind and solar generation. The challenge is to take these stretching targets and turn them into delivery of cheaper electricity into people’s homes as quickly as possible.

“The steps on onshore wind are unlikely to unlock significant new capacity rapidly, while government’s aim to build more major nuclear plants will also take many years to realise.

“Alongside shifting supply away from fossil fuels, some of the quickest wins can be found in improving energy efficiency by better insulating our homes and public buildings to cut overall demand. The potential benefits are now bigger than ever, and we again call on government to set out a costed, long term plan for meeting its own targets and help households make the right choices for their pocket and the planet.”

Dame Clare Moriarty, chief executive, Citizens Advice

“There is a major missing piece of this strategy. Energy efficiency. Improving the energy efficiency of homes in this country can help bring down bills right now, it means safer, warmer homes and it protects people from future price spikes.

“Increasing domestic energy supplies will help protect bill-payers from price spikes. But the financing and building of new nuclear is complex and projects have a history of being delivered late and over budget. Consumers can’t be left to pick up the tab if the same thing happens again.”

David Smith, chief executive, Energy Networks Association

“Faced by a number of challenges, the government’s plans to strengthen energy security by boosting clean power and doubling the UK’s hydrogen production targets are welcome.

“Having shown our ability to mobilise over £300 million of early investment in energy networks for a green recovery from Covid-19, the UK’s networks are ready to move with the same urgency to deliver these new ambitions and continue to ensure security of supply.

”However, we are concerned that planning reforms under way don’t fully reflect the needs of the network infrastructure necessary to connect new generation and support new demand. If unresolved, this is a significant barrier to achieving the government’s aims.”

Lily Frencham, chief executive, Association for Decentralised Energy

“Decentralised energy measures are proven, pragmatic, modern and ready to bolster the UK’s energy security and decarbonisation ambitions – we just need the political will and investment to create certainty and catch up with other European nations already using them to great effect.

“Unfortunately, the new Energy Security Strategy misses a trick by neglecting to focus on easy and established measures that can help people immediately – such as improving the efficiency of their homes. Without increased government support in these areas, it will be impossible to adequately protect consumers from continued price rises and volatility in the future.”

Joanne Wade, chief strategic advisor, Association for Decentralised Energy

“The content of the government’s Energy Security Strategy is highly alarming. More oil and gas drilling is categorically the wrong direction to be moving in, both for the sake of the British public and the environment.

“We need to tackle energy security, fuel poverty and climate at the same time to make real progress. Delivering energy efficiency, greater flexibility and the accelerated decarbonisation of heat will deliver far quicker results than new oil and gas can – decentralised energy is ready to deliver on all three of these objectives.”

Danielle Lane, UK country manager, Vattenfall

“The government has set out targets which send a clear message of our move away from imported fossil fuels to a future powered by low-cost renewables.

“A world leading offshore wind target is an exciting challenge that the industry can rise to, but the vital work to unlock this potential now lies in setting out a clear plan to remove roadblocks to unlocking investment. It must not take over six years to secure project consents with risk placed fully with developers, and vital issues like grid access need resolving quickly.

“Our route away from the energy crisis lies in speeding up our shift to net zero. Onshore wind as a cheap, powerful, and quick-to-build technology could play an important role in this and the Government could have been bolder to unlock its full potential. Tried and tested, low-cost technologies like heat networks can also move quickly to set us off on the right foot, with pragmatic planning reform and the clear legislation in place.”

Tom Greatrex, chief executive, Nuclear Industry Association

“The new nuclear target of 24GW by 2050 is a vital step forward for UK energy security and our net zero future. Investing in fleets of large and small scale stations is essential to securing clean, affordable, British power which will work alongside renewables to cut our dependence on gas.

“This investment will also create tens of thousands of jobs across the country and revitalise a world class skills base right here in Britain. The ambition and determination to do much more and quicker is very welcome.”

“Along with removing barriers to projects getting started, building investor confidence by ensuring nuclear is classified as green in the UK taxonomy and making it eligible for green bonds are important next steps.

“We also want to see the money from the promised Future Nuclear Enabling Fund allocated at pace, with good sites being made available for project development.”

Simone Rossi, UK chief executive, EDF

“Britain is right to take control of its energy future, with a step change in ambition for electricity from wind, nuclear and solar, and greater energy efficiency.

“Building more new nuclear will reduce Britain’s dependence on overseas gas and keep energy prices stable, creating thousands of jobs while we’re doing it.  At Hinkley Point C we’re already building British nuclear, with 3600 British businesses and 22,000 people making it happen, including over 800 apprentices.

“The fastest way to get more nuclear in Britain is get on with the next two units at Sizewell C. It’s a copy of Hinkley Point C, the design is approved and ready to go, and British manufacturers are experts in how to build it. Building more of the same design is the best way to bring down costs and develop a strong UK supply chain.”

Sue Ferns, senior deputy general secretary, Prospect

“This energy strategy is big on ambition and if matched with a concrete plan of action and funding from government will go a long way to providing the long-term energy security the UK needs. We are yet to see that concrete plan however and it must not be allowed to slip.

“Direct investment in new nuclear will be hugely welcome – we now need direct government support for Sizewell C, Wylfa and any other projects that can be set in motion. We have talked about this for too long and must commit fully with the cash and legislation to back it up.

“Sadly we heard very little about the nuclear supply chain, which is just as important as a nuclear build programme in powering a secure, net zero future for British energy. The Government must act now to retain key skills and expertise at the UK’s only nuclear fuel manufacturer, Springfields Fuels. We cannot be in a position of relying on foreign imports for UK reactors.”

Tom William, partner and head of energy and infrastructure, Downing LLP

“What we do over the next decade will be critical to mitigating or averting a climate crisis but, unfortunately, it seems that a short term focus on the cost of living and energy security is driving much of the government’s energy strategy. Increased emphasis on nuclear energy as part of the solution is a medium to long term effect; it takes years to plan, commission, build and deliver new nuclear capacity. In the short term, fossil fuel intensive generation will be sweated harder for longer, emitting more greenhouse gases in the process.

“The fastest and cleanest way to reduce our energy bills is a greater use of renewable energy. The government must do more to encourage the rapid scale up of renewable energy infrastructure through easing of planning regulations for wind and solar, especially onshore wind. Pairing this with improved storage and transmission is the only way to deliver against our competing demands of energy security and an impending climate crisis. While, to mitigate the short term impact of fossil fuel use, we need to see equal commitment to carbon capture and sequestering technologies.

“Like any area of policy, it can’t be considered in isolation but our greatest fear is that the climate crisis will be the price we pay for energy security.”

Mike Foster, chief executive, Energy and Utilities Alliance

“The energy crisis has forced the government to announce this new strategy and we welcome it. The PM has made his move towards hydrogen, doubling his ambition and we say ‘well done’. He has recognised the need for a flexible, low carbon and affordable gas to heat homes and power industry. Hydrogen is that gas. And across the globe, in response to Putin’s savagery, nations are turning to hydrogen.

“Hydrogen heating will mean people can keep their gas boilers, cookers and fires; it is just the gas that is being changed. We did the same thing in the 1960s, moving from Town Gas to natural gas, now we will move from natural gas to hydrogen. The UK will lead the way, as it did before, and that is what this government wants to see.

“Consumers will avoid major disruption to their lives, minimise the costs associated with achieving net zero, at the same time help save the planet from climate change, and keep Putin’s gas in the ground. That’s what I call a win.”

Clare Jackson, chief executive, Hydrogen UK

“We are thrilled that the government has doubled down on hydrogen by increasing the production target to 10GW, recognising that hydrogen is a key part of the net zero transition. This new goal will allow industry to unleash investment, bring down costs and widen the use-case for hydrogen, exploring its potential in transport, heavy industry and to heat homes.”

Celia Greaves, chief executive, UK HFCA

“Global hydrogen production is becoming more mainstream, and we do not want to be left behind. Today’s announcement is certainly welcome, but the government could go further still which is why we have been advocating for a 20GW target for a number of years now.”

“Our aim is to accelerate the commercialisation of fuel cell and hydrogen energy technologies and make the UK the best place for hydrogen and fuel cells across all applications and opportunities. Every step in the right direction is worthy of celebration – we just need to be running rather than walking.”

Marcus Newborough, development director, ITM Power

“Currently EU targets tower over UK targets with an 80GW target by 2030, producing 20 million mega tonnes a year of renewable hydrogen. That’s a game changer.

“It seems to have taken the UK government a very long time to make this decision and while we all welcome it, it’s no manna from heaven.”

Emma Pinchbeck, chief executive, Energy UK

“Industry has committed to delivering a net zero power system in the 2030s as the best way to provide secure and cheap power to the UK. We support the government’s recommendations in the Energy Security Strategy to accelerate the deployment of domestic clean power sources, build a modern energy system, and reduce demand for volatile international gas.”

Dan McGrail, chief executive, Renewable UK

“The renewables industry is ready and able to work with government to deliver the ambitions set out in the new Energy Security Strategy. Renewables can deliver new, low-cost power quicker than any other option and wind will be at the heart of a secure, affordable net zero energy system.

“Scaling up our ambitions for renewables, and increasing speed of delivery, will help us cut bills and be more energy independent. The sector is investing tens of billions of pounds in cheap wind power, as well as cutting-edge green hydrogen and floating wind technology, so that the UK can reduce our dependence on gas.”

Duncan Clark, head of region UK, Orsted

“This is a truly momentous day for the offshore wind industry and for every consumer in the UK.  Twenty years ago there were only two wind turbines in UK waters, and now, as a nation, we are leading the world in offshore wind and making the changes we need to make offshore wind the backbone of the UK’ electricity system.

“There is no doubt that the technology works, there is no doubt that it is low-cost, and now with the Government and industry committing to make the changes needed to accelerate deployment, there is no doubt that we can deliver the secure, low-cost electricity that the UK needs.”

Chris O’Shea, chief executive, Centrica

“In recent months, we’ve seen the impact of global rising energy prices on UK households. The geopolitical landscape means it’s more crucial than ever that the UK has robust and secure supply chains for many things, including energy. The British Energy Security Strategy is something we can all get behind to protect the nation and help households today and over the long term. We welcome the government’s boost for renewables and nuclear and the focus on kick-starting the hydrogen economy.

“This will help us reduce our dependency on foreign gas and, done properly, could help make us a net exporter of energy, boosting our economy and creating well paid, highly skilled jobs.”

Alistair Phillips-Davies, chief executive, SSE

“The current energy crisis is driven by our reliance on imported gas and it’s clear that the only way to tackle the underlying cause is to ramp up investment in home-grown, clean energy infrastructure; today’s package represents a significant step towards that goal.

“We particularly welcome the increased ambition and commitment to accelerate delivery of offshore wind as the backbone of a cleaner, more secure energy system, but also critically the acknowledgement that accelerating investments into network infrastructure and flexible technologies like pumped storage, alongside a developing hydrogen economy, will be essential if we are to make that ambition a reality.”

Keith Anderson, chief executive, Scottish Power

“Supercharging ambition on green energy security is to be welcomed – we have the projects and are ready to build them. There’s no shortage of desire but we’ve got to get real on removing the barriers to make more clean, green, homegrown electricity a reality and get shovels in the ground and turbines in the water.

“It takes five times longer to get a project through the UK’s planning system than to build it – that’s got to change if we’re to stand any chance of weaning our energy system off global gas and making a green future a reality.

“Renewable power is the cleanest, fastest and cheapest way to electrify the economy and the government could unlock tens of gigawatts if it removes the cap on the next green energy auctions and we swiftly address how we connect and transport it around the country.

“The energy industry has the solutions but what we need from government is to remove the obstacles and we can get on and deliver.”

Simon Oscroft, co-founder, So Energy

“As a 100% renewable electricity supplier, So Energy welcomes any focus within the government’s Energy Security Strategy in strengthening our domestic supply of green energy as a positive step forward.

“However, today’s strategy does nothing to help the millions of households plunged into fuel poverty on 1st April after the price cap increased by £700 a year. The council tax rebate package announced by the chancellor in February only covers a fifth of this bill increase and so more immediate support is needed. Neither does this new strategy offer any support to the energy suppliers left in the market, all of whom have been and will continue to foot the bill for what are increasingly loss making tariffs between now and the next price cap review. Improving home energy efficiency is another cost effective way of bringing down energy usage, lower customer bills and gain greater energy independence, but there’s nothing to address this in today’s strategy either.

“The cost of living crisis and associated projections for October’s price cap increase have got significantly worse since the February package was announced. With nothing to address this in today’s strategy, we urge the government to bring forward additional relief measures in the coming weeks.”

Phil Thompson, chief executive, Balance Power

“Without significant reform the government’s ‘ambitious, quicker expansion of nuclear, wind, solar, hydrogen, oil and gas’, risks being caught up in the same cumbersome planning processes, which comes with unique challenges depending on the energy source. These processes often cause unnecessary delays that can stretch into the years and is part of the problem that has led us to this point.

“The government must remove barriers to planning, something which critically doesn’t cost the consumer anything at all. While the projects won’t come into operation immediately, a change to planning rules would have an immediate impact on the volume of projects that we will see being rolled out in the next few years.

“This is an absolutely crucial element which must be addressed, along with more attention on commercially viable electricity storage technology, and increased investment in advancing technology, if we are to reach and sustain a net zero grid.”

Stuart Murphy, founder, TPGen24

“The government’s continued reluctance to support tidal energy generation to any meaningful scale, whether range or stream, was reinforced today in its new energy strategy, which seemed to mention a commitment to almost every other resource.

“Even worse, they’re considering reopening North Sea gas fields as well as opening the door to controversial fracking. When we’re trying to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels, this seems like a huge step backwards. Further, there was no mention of achieving Baseload, sustainably, which should be the central objective of this strategy.

“In my, and a growing number of policymakers’, view, tidal is the only resource with the potential to deliver this scenario, complementing existing and future wind and solar. Once again, we’ve seen our government confronted by a serious challenge, only to panic and take the superficially easy route, which will cost us all dear in the long run.”

Sharon Graham, general secretary, Unite

“It has taken a war and a global crisis to get this government to act on the long-standing and vitally important issue of meeting the energy needs of the country and the planet. This is something we have been pushing for years.

“Now we have promises of investment and new jobs. But the devil will be in the detail. Government investment must be tied to UK job guarantees and not be syphoned off to boost offshore profits. There can be no further delays on delivering the new jobs and they must be union jobs, covered by collective bargaining, good pay, terms and conditions.

“And let’s not pretend that this strategy is enough to fix the pain inflicted upon workers and households right now by the UK’s punishing energy costs.  Energy producers are making more cash than they know what to do with.  A targeted windfall tax could get cash directly into the pockets of the people in this country who are facing the terrifying dilemma of heat or eat.”

Frances O’Grady, general secretary, TUC

“Today’s announcement fails to rise to the challenge of the climate emergency. And it does little to reassure the millions of workers facing big falls in their living standards due to soaring energy costs.

“A mass home insulation programme would slash bills and create over 200,000 jobs. But it is entirely missing from the strategy.

“The strategy promises no new help to preserve jobs in energy-intensive industries, threatened by soaring energy costs. And it fails to invest in zero-carbon steel, electric vehicles, and clean manufacturing.

“Ministers should be far bolder. Now is the time for a strategy that defends and creates hundreds of thousands of jobs, delivers affordable energy to homes and workplaces and stops climate change.”

Polly Billington, chief executive, UK100

“With local leaders being vital partners in delivering UK energy security and net zero, the government’s energy strategy is a missed opportunity. Local authorities are mentioned just twice in the whole document.

“The strategy, on the whole, is too quiet on energy demand reduction: a key priority when it comes to increasing energy security and accelerating net zero progress.”

“The commitment to investing in heat pumps and doubling green financing for retrofit and making our homes more energy efficient is good news. But we need more. With only 2.8% of homes due to be upgraded in the next three years, it begs the question: why are we waiting until 2050 to make the other 97.2% energy efficient?”

“Local leaders are making a success of the Green Homes Grant Local Authority Delivery scheme to deliver lifelong low-carbon housing. They have demonstrated they can deliver at scale and cost-effectively.”

“Decarbonising homes should be a central element of the UK’s energy security strategy — and the best way to do it quickly, economically and at scale is hand-in-hand with local authorities.”