In the new environment of energy insecurity intensified by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the resulting response from the West, the UK government has released a new British Energy Security Strategy that sets out how Great Britain will accelerate the deployment of wind, new nuclear, solar and hydrogen, while supporting the production of domestic oil and gas in the nearer term. Under the plan, 95% of electricity by 2030 could be low-carbon, the government said.
The strategy will see a significant acceleration of nuclear, with an ambition of up to 24GW by 2050. This would represent up to around 25% of projected electricity demand—three times more than now. Currently, low-carbon nuclear supplies 15% of power as a steady source of generation to complement intermittent renewables.
Subject to technology readiness from industry, Small Modular Reactors will form a key part of the nuclear project pipeline.
A new government body, Great British Nuclear, will be set up immediately to bring forward new projects, backed by substantial funding. The government will also launch the £120-million (US$156-million) Future Nuclear Enabling Fund this month. The government will work to progress a series of projects as soon as possible this decade, including Wylfa site in Anglesey. This could mean delivering up to 8 additional reactors, equivalent to one reactor a year instead of one a decade.
Layout of Hinkley Point C. EPRs—originally known as European Pressurized Water Reactors—are a type of Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR). The design of the UK EPRs that will be built at Hinkley Point C represents a major development on previous PWRs, making them amongst the safest and most efficient civil nuclear power generators ever designed. The UK EPR design also marks significant progress towards sustainability. It has been designed to use less uranium and produce almost a third less long-lived radioactive wastes compared with water reactors in operation today.
Britain’s first nuclear power station in a generation, Hinkley Point C, is currently under construction, and the government is in negotiations with the developer on the Sizewell C project in Suffolk. The two projects combined would generate about 6.5GW of power.
The UK has 8 designated nuclear sites: Hinkley, Sizewell, Heysham, Hartlepool, Bradwell, Wylfa, Oldbury and Moorside. To facilitate its ambitious deployment plans, the government will also develop an overall siting strategy for the long term.
The Energy Security Strategy plans also include:
Offshore wind: a new ambition of up to 50GW by 2030—more than enough to power every home in the UK—of which up to 5GW should be from floating offshore wind in deeper seas. This will be underpinned by new planning reforms to cut the approval times for new offshore wind farms from 4 years to 1 year and an overall streamlining which will reduce the time it takes for new projects to reach construction stages while improving the environment.
Oil and gas: a licensing round for new North Sea oil and gas projects planned to launch in Autumn, with a new taskforce providing bespoke support to new developments—recognizing the importance of these fuels to the transition and to energy security, and that producing gas in the UK has a lower carbon footprint than imported from abroad.
Onshore wind: The government will be consulting on developing partnerships with a limited number of supportive communities who wish to host new onshore wind infrastructure in return for guaranteed lower energy bills.
Heat pump manufacturing: The government will run a Heat Pump Investment Accelerator Competition in 2022 worth up to £30 million (US$39 million) to make British heat pumps, which reduce demand for gas.
The plan will also look to increase the UK’s current 14GW of solar capacity which could grow up to 5 times by 2035, consulting on the rules for solar projects, particularly on domestic and commercial rooftops.
The government also aims to double its ambition to up to 10GW of low-carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030, with at least half coming from green hydrogen and utilizing excess offshore wind power to bring down costs. This will not only provide cleaner energy for vital British industries to move away from expensive fossil fuels, but could also be used for cleaner power, transport and potentially heat.