oday’s Energy Strategy should be warmly welcomed. Offering a swathe of investments across renewables (wind and solar), hydrogen and nuclear, the plan outlines a near future where the UK’s energy supply does not rely on imports from volatile regions across the globe and is helping to meet Net Zero commitments.
The conflict in Ukraine has brought into sharp relief the need to improve the UK’s security of energy supply. With much of ongoing reliance on fossil fuels sourced from often unstable areas around the world, we are overexposed and vulnerable as a nation to volatile markets over which we have little control. The Strategy is a first step towards energy independence and while it will do little to relieve market pressures in the immediate term, the longer-term view, if the Strategy is realised, augers well.
Of course, all this new energy capacity needs to help deliver our commitments on Net Zero too. This means we will need to invest in renewables – wind, solar – alongside hydrogen and nuclear. As key partners for government, ACE members stand ready to help design and deliver the right energy mix for our net zero future.
On nuclear, the Strategy has outlined plans for eight new reactors, including two at Sizewell, delivering a quarter of the UK’s energy supply by 2050. A new arms-length client body, Great British Nuclear will oversee delivery and their development will also create thousands of jobs.
On hydrogen, the plans to double capacity are both ambitious and welcome, and will help provide cleaner energy for industry, as well as for power, transport and potentially heating.
As key partners for government, ACE members stand ready to help design and deliver the right energy mix for our net zero future. Stephen Marcos Jones
For renewables we welcome the ambitions around wind and solar. The moves to speed up the approval process for offshore wind is also good news, but we would have liked to have seen similar moves around cheaper forms of renewable energy – onshore wind and solar.
If the Westminster rumour mill is to be believed, the Strategy was delayed owing to political tensions on onshore wind and solar. As we have seen around other major infrastructure projects recently, bringing the local community on board is crucial. The Strategy’s plan to reward communities that host wind turbines with cheaper energy bills is potentially transformational and, if successful, I would like to see the concept replicated elsewhere. This could help major projects, with national interests at their core, build the vital local support required to unlock swifter delivery.
If I was to be critical perhaps the Strategy takes too much of a long-term view and will do little to address immediate concerns, especially around consumer energy affordability. More could have been done to encourage domestic energy efficiency such as insulation and improving homes. This not only would cut people’s energy bills but would also support the delivery of our Net Zero ambitions, all the while supporting thousands of jobs.
The proof of this Strategy will, of course, be in its implementation, and as key partners for government, our members stand ready to help realise the vision.
Find out more about the Energy Strategy here. ACE members can download their exclusive member briefing below.
Stephen Marcos Jones is chief executive of the Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE).