What is the UK's energy security strategy?
The UK is experiencing a cost-of-living crisis with soaring energy prices being one of the key drivers. The recent energy price cap announcement looks to increase the average annual bill by an eye-watering 54% to £1,941, and the war in Ukraine only adds to the problem. It’s no wonder than an independent think-tank estimates that the UK fuel poverty number will treble as a result of this.
The crisis has therefore prompted the UK government to publish a strategy to secure the UK’s energy supplies, in hopes that it will dampen the hiking energy costs for families and businesses alike.
What technology will be used to move away from fossil fuels?
Investing more in renewable energy will play a pivotal role in this new strategy. The government plans to increase the capacity for offshore wind generation as well as relax the planning rules that stopped offshore windfarms from being built in the first place.
The strategy will also give a boost to nuclear power, with more investment being given to the UK’s reactor fleet. This is important as keeping these power stations up and running will help provide stability during the current crisis. But it is worth keeping in mind that any new reactors usually take more than a decade to start producing power.
There has also been talks that the UK has the capacity to be a ‘major energy exporter’ as experts argue that ‘tidal lagoon energy’ could be a great power to harness.
Professor Karl Williams, the Director of the Centre for Waste Management at the University of Central Lancashire, believes that the UK has a massive geographical advantage over other countries like France to utilise this form of technology.
He said: “Lagoons have been hailed as being able to supply at least 10 percent of the UK energy requirement. With those claims, it would not need too many projects to make a significant contribution to our electricity requirements and help to move us away from fossil fuel”.
“The UK has had a number of sites that have been investigated over the years, including the Dee Estuary, Morecambe Bay and the Solway Firth, the Severn and Mersey. The amount of power these sites could generate could allow the UK to be a net exporter of power. There is a potential that these sites could meet a significant amount of the UK’s energy need.”
Will the UK still use fossil fuels?
The government has said that fossil fuels will still be a big part of the strategy, as it seeks to expand the UK’s supplies of oil and gas. They aim to do this by pumping more volumes from the North Sea and then making proposals to big Middle Eastern suppliers, including Saudi Arabia.
Coal is still being used but is aimed to be phased out of the UK by 202s4. This is good news as this fossil fuel is considered the dirtiest form of electricity generation. However, it is understood that the government has made informal contacts with EDF, Uniper and Drax (the UK’s remaining coal operators) to convert their biomass boilers back to coal in a contingency situation.
When it comes to gas, the government has still left the door open to fracking, saying that it could still go ahead if the health & safety requirements are met. Fracking is, however, likely to face huge local backlash, generate carbon dioxide emissions and would take years to produce any gas anyway.
Could the government be doing more?
There are a fair few other things the government could be in their energy security strategy. One top priority we think is important is to push for a nationwide improvement in household insulation. Leaky houses are an unnecessary costs millions of families across the UK have to put up with, and something that they shouldn’t have to. This is why many have contemplated the idea of whether energy efficiency should take priority over a price cap in order to save on energy costs.
A windfall tax on fossil fuel companies is another thing could be in the strategy, but isn’t. This is something that is even backed by the International Energy Agency, with the tax money in a perfect place to be distributed to those hit the most by the energy bill hikes.
Overall, the government has made some positive first steps to help ease energy bills for vulnerable people, but it can be argued that they can do more. Ramping up wind farms and looking into new renewables like tidal lagoon energy are good signs, but obvious changes like a windfall tax and better home insulation are still strangely omitted. But any improvement to ease the cost-of-living crisis is a welcome one.
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