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Energy Security Strategy 2022: what is UK government’s plan to help households with cost of living crisis?

Focusing on nuclear, wind, solar and hydrogen, the government aims to make the UK more self-sufficient in energy

The government launched its long-awaited energy strategy on 7 April amid the worst cost of living crisis for decades - one that’s being driven in large part by rocketing energy prices.

The UK Energy Security Strategy’s key aims are to make the UK more self-sufficient in energy and to get 95% of the country’s energy from ‘low-carbon’ sources by 2030.

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But the major policy announcement has been criticised for not doing enough to help households already struggling to pay their energy bills - with Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng admitting the document was more of a “medium term” solution.

So what policies does the new energy strategy contain - and what has the reaction been?

Here’s everything you need to know.

Boris Johnson said the strategy would deliver on making the UK more self-sufficient in energy and less reliant on fossil fuels (image: Getty Images)

What’s in the UK’s new energy strategy?

The UK’s new energy strategy is focused across five energy production categories:

  • Nuclear energy
  • Wind power
  • Solar energy
  • Hydrogen
  • Fossil fuels

Boris Johnson said the “bold plans” would “scale up and accelerate affordable, clean and secure energy made in Britain, for Britain”.

The PM added it would “reduce our dependence” on foreign producers, such as Russia, and reduce the UK’s exposure to “volatile international prices”.

The government is making £375 million available to boost hydrogen and nuclear energy, which includes £240 million to fund low carbon hydrogen production projects.

Here’s what the plan contains:

Nuclear

The government will create a new body - Great British Nuclear - that will be tasked with upping the UK’s nuclear capacity.

Boris Johnson wants nuclear energy to supply 24 gigawatts (GW) of electricity by 2050 - around a quarter of the country’s projected energy needs.

To achieve this end, the government has set itself the aim of building up to eight reactors by the end of the decade, including one at Wylfa on the island of Anglesey, north west Wales.

Nuclear plants, like the one being constructed at Hinkley Point, are a key part of the energy security strategy (image: Getty Images)

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said none of these new nuclear plants would be built in Scotland, whose devolved administration is opposed to new nuclear power sites.

While the government described nuclear energy as “clean” it’s unclear whether it has factored in the substantial amount of emissions likely to result from the major construction projects required to build such power stations.

Wind

The government has set itself a target to produce up to 50GW from wind power by 2030 - with 5GW coming from offshore wind in deeper seas.

As part of this drive, it will introduce planning reforms to cut approval times for new offshore wind farms from four years to 12 months.

Should it succeed in this aim, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) says wind would provide enough energy to power every UK home.

Onshore wind power has faced significant opposition in Boris Johnson’s cabinet (image: AFP/Getty Images)

To boost onshore wind power - one of the cheapest methods of electricity production - the government says it will be forming partnerships with “a limited number of supportive communities” that are happy to host wind farms in exchange for lower energy bills.

But the PM said these projects would “have a very high bar to clear”.

Wind power is believed to have been a major reason for why the energy strategy was delayed, with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps particularly opposed to “eyesore” onshore wind farms.

Solar

BEIS said the UK currently generates 14GW of electricity from solar power but wants to expand this capacity five-fold by 2035.

It is set to launch a consultation on the rules for solar projects, including the installation of solar panels on domestic and commercial properties.

The government says it will consult on how to get more solar panels onto the rooftops of homes and businesses (image: Getty Images)

Hydrogen

Hydrogen technology is still in the process of being developed but the government has identified it as a key ‘clean’ energy source of the future.

It says it wants the UK to develop 10GW of ‘green’ hydrogen production capacity by 2030.

Oil and gas

One of the more controversial elements of the strategy is the government’s plan to licence more North Sea oil and gas projects from autumn 2022.

It says fossil fuels are going to be important for the UK’s energy needs in the “nearer term”.

However, it flies in the face of advice from the International Energy Agency, which has said there should be no new oil or gas exploration if the world is to avoid the worst of climate change.

The government says new oil and gas exploration was necessary for the UK’s ‘nearer term’ energy needs (image: AFP/Getty Images)

The announcement comes after the government commissioned a review into the science around fracking - a move which could lead to a resumption of exploration for shale gas.

UK fracking projects were abandoned in 2019 after they caused two minor earthquakes in Lancashire in 2011.

There are also concerns the process could contaminate water and create noise and traffic pollution.

What has been the reaction to the UK energy strategy?

The energy strategy has been welcomed by some, but has also been heavily criticised.

Simone Rossi, CEO of French energy giant EDF, which is building the new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point C, said the strategy was a “step change” that would “reduce Britain’s dependence on overseas gas and keep energy prices stable, creating thousands of jobs while we’re doing it.”

Mr Rossi’s comments were echoed by the strategy’s other big winners, including offshore wind firm Orsted, trade association Hydrogen UK and Shell.

However, the policy document has been blasted by opposition parties and campaigners for not doing anything to combat the existing cost of living crisis.

Energy bills have rocketed since the Covid pandemic due to a combination of low gas supplies and heightened energy demand - issues which forced Ofgem to raise the energy price cap by 54% at the start of April.

The government has already introduced some measures intended to help - including a council tax rebate for many households and an energy bills loan - but has faced calls to do more.

Greenpeace said the energy strategy rewarded ‘vested interests’ such as the nuclear industry (image: Getty Images)

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the new energy strategy is “not enough” and is “too little, too late” to help families with rising costs.

“All we’ve got today is a cobbled-together list of things that could and should have been done over the last 10 to 12 years, and it doesn’t even tackle really important things like insulating homes, which could save £400 on everybody’s bill,” he said.

Speaking in the House of Lords, business minister Lord Callanan blamed Rishi Sunak for the lack of extra funding for home insulation.

This omission has angered green groups, who argue insulation is a cost effective way to lower energy bills and reduce CO2 emissions.

Friends of the Earth called for funding for “a council-led, street-by-street free insulation programme” that would target “those most in need first”.

It warned current plans would leave Brits “freezing, desperate and out of pocket next winter”.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the energy strategy was not enough to tackle the cost of living crisis (image: Getty Images)

Greenpeace said the government has “prioritised slow solutions” and rewarded “vested interests in the nuclear and the oil and gas industries”.

It repeated its call for “quick, cost-effective and fair solutions”, like taxing the profits of oil and gas companies.

In an interview with Sky News, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng admitted the plan was a “medium term, three, four or five-year answer” but said it was “really important that we get an energy strategy, an energy policy, that means we can have more security and independence”.

The most damning criticism of the strategy came from Bridget Woodman, deputy director of the Energy Policy Group at the University of Exeter.

She said: “Energy policy is commonly seen as having three goals, ensuring a secure supply, delivering affordable energy and reducing our emissions of carbon dioxide in the face of climate change.

“The energy strategy fails on all three counts.”

She described exploiting new fossil fuel sources as “environmental madness”, and said the emphasis on new nuclear power could push up bills.