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Powering Up Britain: Reactions pour in to the Government’s new energy security plan

Powering Up Britain, the government’s blueprint for the future of energy in this country was published today. The document can be found here.

Grant Shapps, the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero described it as ‘the moment we commit to a different future. One that breaks with the fossil fuels that powered our past two centuries. One that will meet Britain’s long-term energy needs. One that will help us become a net zero economy by 2050, ending our contribution to global warming. And one that will boost economic growth, using Britain’s unique assets and talents to drive the energy transition’

Big Ben, London

Here are some of the reactions that have poured in from parties affected by the newly announced strategies.

Carla Ribeiro, Head of Offshore Wind Advisory UK and Ireland, Ramboll:

Whilst today’s ‘Powering Up Britain’ strategy does not make any changes to the existing offshore wind target, this was already quite ambitious. Delivering 50 GW by 2030, with 5 GW of this being floating wind, is going to be challenging but I believe it is possible with the right investment. The investment in the development of port infrastructure is much welcome, and a necessary investment to support floating wind and drive costs down. It remains to be seen if £160million will be sufficient, however clearly the Government recognises the crucial role offshore wind has to play in delivering large-scale clean energy to the grid. This cost reduction is a fundamental step in the right direction to delivering the ambitious floating wind projects awarded in the recent Scotwind auction as many of these projects might struggle with financial feasibility in a business-as-usual scenario.

It is good to see the government admit that onshore wind is the cheaper source of clean energy in the UK but, yet again, it has received very little attention. The planning changes favour only small, community scale projects. This has been a long-term government strategy which has encouraged the industry’s limited resources to focus on offshore wind development. Whilst offshore development is more costly than onshore, increasing investments will result in greater cost reductions. Whether these investments will pay off will not be evident for a long time but with current development constraints, offshore wind has the benefit of delivering utility scale projects that onshore is incapable of delivering.

I was also interested to see investment in green hydrogen, and carbon capture. Renewables alone cannot deliver the energy transition and fully decarbonising energy production and transport may not be necessary, or desirable economically. Carbon capture may bridge the remaining gap at a lower cost.

The Government should look next to investment in R&D for other potential sources of clean and affordable energy. Other solutions to the energy transition will need to be brought forward as existing technologies are still unlikely to fill the gap.

John Kent, Chief Energy Transition Officer at Kent:

The world is addicted to energy, and when that energy supply is disrupted, as we’ve seen in the past year, everyone pays the price. For the foreseeable future oil and gas will need to be part of the solution as we transition to a renewable future. Measures to decarbonise how oil and gas are produced are key to any net zero plan. 

The mess the government has made of the outward positioning of their climate policy should not overlook the fact that the UK is still one of the world leaders in renewable energy sources, particularly offshore wind, hydrogen and committing to carbon capture technology. As well as the additional investment in their energy security plan, they have promised to reform the planning process of energy infrastructure, specifically citing solar and offshore wind, to speed up the process and attract investment. For those involved in making a renewable energy future a reality, like Kent, this is a critical piece of the puzzle and must not be overlooked.”

Mark Chadwick, Managing Director, Sustainability Solutions UK&I at ENGIE Impact:

The latest IPCC report confirmed the urgent need for action on climate change, and today’s announcement of the UK Government’s new Energy Security Plan is a promising start, but does not go far enough to give business leaders the support they need to reach their goals in the long term. The decision to delay announcing an industrial plan until the Autumn Budget statement is further evidence of this.

It was glaringly obvious from the announcements made this month that there isn’t a holistic strategy to achieve net zero by 2050 – with a long-term plan for energy efficiency rollout and financing overlooked in favour of carbon capture and storage. The decision to invest in nuclear energy instead of support mechanisms for renewables and decongesting the grid connection process should be reconsidered, as both are required to reach net zero. It takes a long time for nuclear to be built and there have been several delays as evidenced in the UK and France.

Renewable energy, specifically solar and wind, should be a priority in scaling up efforts. In many parts of the world, solar and wind energy are now the cheapest ways to produce energy, making them the obvious choices in terms of economic viability. This means that investments in renewable energy not only have environmental benefits, but also significant economic benefits. This should be at the forefront of any and all plans that hope to help the UK become a net zero economy in the foreseeable future.’

Alex Harrison, partner and co-head of Projects and Energy Transition, at Akin:

We need Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF). It has the potential to deliver 65% of the emissions savings needed for ‘Jet Zero’. Early projects need government support to succeed given their higher costs of production. SAF is being strongly supported by tax credits in the US and minimum SAF targets in the EU. Jeremy Hunt signalled yesterday that the UK would not go toe-to-toe with the US and EU on green subsidies and tax credits. Without that support, the UK risks being left behind in the global race to decarbonise aviation.

Today’s hydrogen announcements in the Powering Up Britain strategy are welcome, but they represent slow progress in the race the establish a clean hydrogen economy in the UK. The government’s proposed hydrogen support business models are complex and will take time to deliver. The EU and US are looking for simpler and quicker ways to deliver investment. Perfection can be the enemy of progress and the UK may need to rethink its approach to remain competitive.”

The UK is a world leader in offshore wind and has a fantastic opportunity to become a global leader in floating offshore wind. To do that it needs to signal a clear pipeline of opportunity and invest in the port and supporting infrastructure needed to bring costs down and attract developers to locate their supply chains in, or near, to the UK. Today’s announcement of £160 million of funding to build UK port infrastructure is a step in the right direction.

Mandating an increasing percentage of new car and van sales to be zero emission is the logical next step in the decarbonisation of our road transport and our commitment to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030 . The transition to electric vehicles is a UK success story with the UK having the second highest battery electric car sales in Europe. Charging infrastructure is still lagging behind electric vehicle uptake with public charging experiences often unreliable. Further investment is also needed to secure and process the critical minerals needed to support this transition and to develop domestic battery gigafactories and reduce our dependence on exports.

Alistair Phillips-Davies, Chief Executive SSE:

While the Humber – the UK’s most carbon intensive region – was not chosen to be among the first carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects to progress, we stand ready to invest and will work with government to get shovels in the ground as quickly as possible.

There remains an opportunity to be bold on CCS and help make the UK the easiest place in the world to invest in low carbon technologies.

It is therefore vital we get clarity on timescales for the Humber and the North East of Scotland if the UK is to meet its climate commitments and boost energy independence.

Sue Robinson, Chief Executive The National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA):

For the automotive retailing sector, it is particularly pleasing to see a commitment to invest £380.8m into charging infrastructure, a prominent barrier stopping many UK motorists from switching to an electric vehicle.

An efficient charging infrastructure is crucial towards boosting consumer confidence and driving transport decarbonisation. NFDA will be engaging with the relevant Government departments to encourage a structured approach towards improving the UK charging network.

With growing interest and demand from motorists for Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) it is encouraging to see more focus rightly shifting towards supply, ensuring more products are entering the UK market with a ZEV mandate.

Andy Willis, founder Kona Energy:

The biggest obstacle on our path to net zero remains unmoved. Without significant grid connection reform, vast potential of clean energy development will linger trapped behind red tape and bureaucratic delays.

Investment and funding into the industry is not the issue – it’s connecting these projects to the grid where the real frustration lies. Kona has approved battery storage facilities that could be built and pumping power into countless homes in a matter of months, but due to the archaic system that will now take years.

It is not uncommon to hear of connection dates in the late 2030s. This is entirely unsustainable to expect international investment to keep coming if it won’t see returns for almost twenty years.

The time for consultations and committees is over – the industry needs to see comprehensive and well-funded action to retain trust in the Government’s commitment to net zero. An action plan ‘later this year’ is not good enough.

Kona has been in Texas this week for the Energy Storage Summit USA 2023, with plans in place to divert investment from the UK to the US. This is multifactorial, including on the basis of rapid American grid connections and a more favourable investment climate, alongside a willingness from authorities to find reasons to support projects, rather than to delay and obstruct. They are seriously backing their net zero ambitions with the US Inflation Reduction Act. Without a British equivalent, the UK will fall behind.

Connection delays imperil the green future. Net zero by 2050 is downright impossible without a grid revolution.

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