‘Economically and environmentally illiterate’: Green economy reacts to UK Energy Security Strategy

The UK's highly-anticipated Energy Security Strategy should have gone further and faster on energy efficiency and onshore wind, with the Government missing opportunities to cut bills and emissions, according to a host of high-profile figures within the green economy.

‘Economically and environmentally illiterate’: Green economy reacts to UK Energy Security Strategy

Prime Minister Boris Johnson first promised the Strategy “within days” on 9 March. After weeks of heated discussions within Government, including reported disagreements over issues including nuclear finance and relaxing planning rules for onshore wind, agreements have finally been reached. The full Strategy documents were published at lunchtime today (7 April).

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has been keen to pose the Strategy as sustainable, with a headline target to deliver an electricity mix that is 95% low-carbon by 2030. 2030 targets for offshore wind, nuclear and hydrogen deployment have been incereased, and consultations on expanding onshore wind and solar this decade are promised, too.

However, the Government’s decision not to impose windfall taxes on oil and gas firms in the North Sea – and to bring forward a new North Sea fossil fuel licencing round this Autumn – have disappointed many working in the climate and clean energy spheres. Disappointment is also stemming from the Strategy’s lack of new support for improving energy efficiency and decarbonising heat, which experts have stated would be more effective at cutting energy bills in the near-term.

Here, edie rounds up all the key reactions to the Strategy from across the UK’s green economy.

WWF’s executive director of campaigns Katie White: This week’s IPCC report made it abundantly clear that if we are to keep our planet within a safe temperature, we have to sever our costly relationship with fossil fuels.

“Whilst there are warm words on the role of decarbonisation, this strategy represents a missed opportunity to accelerate the transition to a safer, cleaner, cheaper future. New licensing rounds in the North Sea directly contravene the clear message that developing new oil and gas fields is incompatible with net-zero.

“Homegrown, renewable energy is flourishing – scaling this up and making our homes warmer and more efficient is the best way to cut energy bills and end our dependence on polluting gas imports. It’s cheap, protects our national security, creates new jobs and doesn’t burn the planet in the process. But this strategy provides limited funding for renewable energy and none at all for energy efficiency.

“The climate crisis is an emergency – we have the world-leading technology in the UK to meet it, but we need urgent political leadership to make it happen.”

The Climate Change Committee’s director of analysis Mike Thompson:“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”

UK100’s chief executive Polly Billington: “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.”

 IPPR associate director for energy and climate, Luke Murphy: “This plan should have been a route map for the UK to make significant progress towards a more affordable, secure, and clean energy future, but from what we’ve seen so far, it falls short on every test.

“Onshore wind to boost clean energy supply and energy efficiency measures to reduce energy demand should have been at the heart of this strategy, but energy efficiency hasn’t been mentioned and the proposals for onshore wind appear pitiful.

“The Government has instead placed a bet big on nuclear, which has a role, but remains too expensive and will take years to make a difference. The decision to ramp up exploration of oil and gas and reassess fracking beggars belief. Phasing out fossil fuels is not only essential for tackling the climate crisis and protecting future generations, but it is also in the interests of our energy and economic security.”

The Aldersgate Group’s head of policy Ana Musat: “Accelerating the decarbonisation of the UK’s power sector, electrifying more sectors of the economy and driving greater energy efficiency all have an essential role to play in improving the UK’s energy security. With this in mind, we welcome the ambition in today’s British Energy Security Strategy to provide 95% of electricity from low carbon sources by 2030, the boosted targets for technologies such as offshore wind and solar power, and the increased ambition in low carbon and green hydrogen. The stronger focus on delivery – including on transmission connections for offshore wind projects – is very welcome.

“However, the Government’s ambitions in low-cost onshore wind could be much bolder and it is disappointing to see so little focus on new regulatory measures and incentives to drive more investment in energy efficiency. Reducing energy demand is an essential part of lowering energy bills for households and businesses and making our economy more resilient to price shocks.

““Whilst unprecedented short-term energy security concerns mean measures like improving gas storage capacity and optimising production from existing fields in the North Sea are necessary, accelerating the transition to net-zero emissions is the most effective way to improve the UK’s energy security and economic resilience in the medium and long term.”

CISL’s director of policy Eliot Whittington: “This is a ‘go-slow’ strategy in a fast-moving world.

“While there are a number of positive elements in the strategy on offshore wind, innovation, hydrogen and other forms of low-carbon energy generation, by continuing to limit the potential of onshore wind, and failing to offer a proper scheme that can kick-start the market to improve people’s homes and help them save energy, the Gvernment is offering half measures and will probably need to return to this question in the coming months. That delay will only increase the burden on UK billpayers and slow potential progress away from Russian gas as well as action on climate change.

“Efforts to scale up North Sea oil and gas production are likely to have limited effect on household bills but prolonged impacts on the climate. While diversifying our energy away from Russian gas is welcome new spending on fossil fuels represents good money going after bad.”

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas: “This feels like we’re taking one very small step forward and several giant leaps back. This economically and environmentally illiterate Strategy proposes new North Sea oil & gas fields which do absolutely nothing to lower household bills, a review to lift the ban on climate-wrecking fracking, and a swathe of painfully slow to construct and vastly expensive nuclear reactors.

“What is most revealing about this Strategy is what is missing. There is a gaping wide hole on energy efficiency and demand reduction – which should have been filled by a home retrofit revolution, a mass roll-out of improved insulation and electric heat pumps to keep homes warm and slash household bills. And bowing to Tory backbenchers by refusing to end to the moratorium on onshore wind, which is almost six times cheaper than gas, is utterly shameful.

“Not only are these solutions staring us in the face, but in this year of COP Presidency, the eyes of the world are on us too.”

 RenewableUK’s chief executive Dan McGrail: “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 the 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. Green investment is creating tens of thousands of jobs across the UK to support levelling up and reaching net-zero faster.”   

Chair of the North West Hydrogen Alliance Professor Joe Howe:  “The decision to rapidly ramp up hydrogen production, which will simultaneously cut carbon emissions and boost energy security, is one we strongly welcome. Accelerating delivery and use of low carbon hydrogen is essential, alongside electrification, to reach net zero. We would argue that the target could go a step further with 15GW possible by 2030.

“Something that people often cite with renewables is their intermittent nature. When it comes to hydrogen in the North West, we have the ability to deliver affordable storage at a large scale. It means we can reduce the risk of energy supply shortages, reliance on overseas supplies and volatility of energy prices.

“HyNet and other regional hydrogen projects are happening now on the ground. Government policy, regulation and funding most go hand-in-hand with the new target.”

 Net Zero North West’s chief executive Ged Barlow: “Net Zero North West members recently revealed they are facing a collective energy bill of up to £1 billion in 2022 – a projected increase of around 65% since 2020. The current challenges only serve to highlight why we need an integrated and resilient net-zero energy strategy in the UK, which will help to protect us against pressures such as increasing energy prices while enabling the transition to net-zero.

“Today’s strategy recognises the role that natural gas will continue to play and that producing it in the UK has a lower carbon footprint than imported from abroad. It is an important transition fuel and shouldn’t be demonised. Reaching net-zero is a journey and we will require carbon capture and blue hydrogen to get us there. This does not mean a step back from net zero. In fact, we suggest that the additional tax income from more UK produced natural gas could be used to fund the transition to net-zero.”

The Energy Networks Association’s chief executive David Smith: “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 £300m 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 underway 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.”

Statkraft UK’s managing director David Flood: “Statkraft welcomes the Government’s commitment to onshore wind and solar as vital tools to secure our energy supply and reduce household bills. We want to see the same focus on reforming onshore planning rules as there is with proposed offshore developments – this will be critical in enabling the domestic production of green hydrogen.

“The right reform of onshore planning regulations will unleash the UK’s renewable potential, clearing the way for a predicted seven-fold growth in wind capacity by 2050 and for solar to supply 63% of the global power system by 2050. The new hydrogen target also marks a step in the right direction, yet the transition to green hydrogen, enabled by wind and solar, should not be distracted by blue. We must move to renewable sources at speed by translating targets into policy and improving our grid network or risk undermining the UK’s net-zero ambitions by continuing to rely on expensive fossil fuels.”

Thrive Renewables’ investment director Monika Paplaczyk: “It’s good to see the government recognising the role of renewables in reducing the UK’s reliance on gas in its Energy Security Strategy. However, deploying onshore wind is the quickest and cheapest way to produce more homegrown electricity and the government appears to have missed a huge opportunity to unleash its power. It is more positive to hear that targets for solar are increasing with a focus on commercial rooftops, which enable businesses to reduce energy bills and decrease their carbon footprint.”

KPMG’s head of energy and natural resources Simon Virley: “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.”

Sustainable Development Capital LLP’s founder and chief executive Jonathan Maxwell: “We are surprised to learn that the Government is not doing more to drive energy efficiency. Improving energy efficiency in commercial, industrial and public sector buildings, as well as households, has a huge role to play in cutting carbon, lowering costs, and increasing our energy security.

The International Energy Agency has already pointed to energy efficiency measures in buildings and industry as a way of reducing reliance on Russian gas, but it often gets less attention than it deserves. This must change. Most of the public will be shocked to learn that we waste two-thirds of the world’s energy. Energy efficiency measures can be introduced rapidly to deliver immediate benefits. This is a real advantage now, and especially when renewable and nuclear energy sources can take years to develop.

“Furthermore, energy efficiency measures quickly pay for themselves in terms of the cost savings they deliver, and then go on to produce further savings. There is an investment case, an environmental case and a national security case for putting energy efficiency at the heart of Government energy policy.”

So Energy’s co-founder Simon Oscroft: “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 1 April after the price cap increased by £700 a year. The Council Tax Rebate package announced by the Chancellor in February only covers only one-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 who have been and will continue to foot the bill for what are increasingly loss-making tariffs between now and the next price cap review.”

BEIS Committee chair Darren Jones MP: “For families and businesses across the country energy security means being able to turn the heating or electricity on knowing you can afford to pay the bill. Ministers continue to ignore the reality faced by millions of people with yet another missed opportunity to help billpayers and a failure to announce funding for the home insulation works required to reduce the amount of heating needed in the first place.

“Replacing gas power with more nuclear power is lower carbon, but nuclear isn’t renewable and it isn’t cheap. It’s disappointing that the Government has failed to seize the full opportunity of onshore wind and solar once again with no explanation other than disagreements within the Conservative Party.

“This Strategy is the fifth energy policy announcement in a long line of energy policy announcements. We need the Government to start delivering. Ministers must urgently explain how they plan to speed up the delivery of their promises instead of just launching yet another policy.”

 Green Angel Syndicate president Nick Lyth: “We seem to be going backwards in every sense.  More expensive energy, more polluting energy, with less security of supply, and mounting demand.  Who remembers the three-day week and electricity rationing in the early and later 70s under Ted Heath and then Jim Callaghan?  I wonder if our leaders are heading back that way.”

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady: “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.”

Ashden’s chief executive Harriet Lamb: “We are shocked that in the same week the UN has warned it would be political and economic madness to invest in fossil fuels, the UK government has decided to do just that as the strategy includes the issuing of new licences for oil and gas in the North Sea.

“The UK government needs to learn its ‘3 Rs’ – Rapid transition away from fossil fuels, more Renewables and major Retrofits.”

The Energy and Utilities Alliance’s chief executive Mike Foster: “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.”

The Association for Decentralised Energy’s chief executive Lily Frencham: “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 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.”

Planet Mark’s chief executive Steve Malkin: “This strategy does not go far or fast enough. Investment in renewables like offshore wind and green hydrogen are welcome but onshore wind is the biggest missed opportunity and that decision appears to be politically motivated. It is cheap and quick to deploy so almost immediately helps to reduce the cost of energy for people and improves our energy security.

“There are some relatively simple and immediate steps the government should be progressing right now, including reducing consumption by launching a national awareness campaign, similar to that used during the pandemic, and by insulating everything that matters. Hard-pressed small businesses and households struggling with their skyrocketing bills also need meaningful financial support to bridge this difficult period.

“Ultimately, the government must remember that global warming and its worst human consequences is the real price we will pay for past mistakes, pumping more fossil fuels and further delay to maximising our renewable energy supply.”

Energy Saving Trust’s head of policy Stew Horne: “There are two key areas that are missing from the strategy that would still allow the UK to move quickly to improve energy security and lower bills both now and in the longer term: Firstly, improving the energy efficiency of the UK’s largely inefficient housing stock should be a higher priority. A long term home energy efficiency programme supported by a new, comprehensive national impartial service providing tailored advice to households, would minimise soaring energy costs, reduce our reliance on a volatile fossil fuel market and cut carbon emissions.

“Secondly, rather than waiting for new nuclear power that will take years to establish, a better option would be to invest more in the electrification of heat. A clear solution is to accelerate the installation of low carbon heating solutions, such as heat pumps, that are available now. Combined with energy efficiency measures, it would take effect now and be a long term solution to significantly cut our demand for gas to heat our homes.“

EY UK&I’s managing partner for sustainability, Rob Doepel: “The Strategy could have gone further.  The recently published IPCC report calls for drastic cuts in fossil fuel use, widespread electrification and improved energy efficiency to contain global warming to manageable levels of 1.5C above preindustrial levels.   This new policy is silent on energy efficiency, which is a missed opportunity.  We need drastic action on buildings and household insulation.  The Government needs to follow up on this ‘Energy Supply’ strategy with a bold and ambitious plan for energy efficiency.

“The IPCC report is a timely reminder that we cannot delay action to reduce emissions across all sectors, including agriculture, transportation, energy and buildings.  If the economic implications of increasing the pace of the energy transition are uncomfortable now, they are only going to get worse if we don’t dramatically increase the level of investment in clean energy and the infrastructure required to support them.”

Boston Consulting Group’s associate director and partner, Jens Burchardt: “As part of this new Strategy., the UK government has doubled its 2030 clean hydrogen ambition from 5 to 10 GW capacity. This higher ambition makes sense. But given that half the increase is supposed to come from “blue” hydrogen production, it will hardly contribute to reducing demand for fossil gas throughout the economy.”

The Ground-Source Heat Pump Association’s chair Laura Bishop: “Instead of focusing on immediate measures to reduce dependence on expensive imported gas, including accelerating the rollout of heat pumps, the strategy focuses on the government’s favoured electricity generating technologies, including those with long lead-in times. This will do nothing to address the immediate cost of living and energy crises facing UK consumers.”

“We welcome the announcement of a new grant completion for UK heat pump manufacturing and a government information website for heat pumps, but again, this will do little in the short-term to boost heat pump demand, or put the UK on course to delivering the Prime Minister’s target of 600,000 heat pumps per year by 2028.

The Association for Renewable Energy & Clean Technology’s (REA) chief executive Nina Skorpuska: “The 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 five, 10, 15 years…The UK needs to move rapidly to an energy system which is independent, secure and stable – this Strategy will simply not achieve that.”

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