Industry response to the Government’s Energy Security Strategy

Article Republished By Javier Troconis

The Government’s Energy Security Strategy has caused quite a stir in the UK, with increased ambitions for renewable energy production. This major acceleration towards “homegrown power” is a direct response to both recent events in Ukraine and a growing appetite for clean energy over the past decade. For many in the clean energy sector, the new targets set out provide a welcome boost to the industry growth and go some way to encourage real progress in our journey to net-zero.

Reacting to the Energy Security Strategy, Nathan Bennett – Head of Public Affairs for RenewableUK – comments:

“There was a lot of market-changing content in this latest Government strategy, not least of which was the increased target of offshore wind to 50GW and the doubling of ambitions for low carbon hydrogen. The new 5GW target for floating wind by 2030 is also really exciting. It comes after the latest Scotwind leasing round showed a pipeline of over 15GW of floating wind in Scotland and we’re already seeing significant growth in the Celtic Sea, which is a space with massive potential. We’re now clearly the largest market for this technology in the world.

“This is especially important for companies who have begun, or are looking to transition from traditional energy sectors like oil and gas. The existing and extensive expertise in everything from mooring to dynamic cabling in the oil and gas sector will be crucial for the development, installation and realisation of renewables. The UK has long been acknowledged as the leader in the offshore wind space, but we will need the experience of traditional energy companies as the global race in floating wind against countries like Norway and France hots up.”

The Energy Security Strategy sets out some of the enabling factors that will see the UK fulfil the new and more ambitious targets for renewable energy production. These include planning reforms to reduce approval times by several years and get new offshore wind farms into construction faster. A taskforce is also being established, including RenewableUK, for floating wind to ensure that organisations have the support they need to successfully transfer into the green energy market. This will need to be accompanied by further collaboration between the devolved Governments of the UK. Nathan says:

“These new targets are very ambitious, but targets are only as good as the enabling measures available. The Government strategy highlights some of the steps it will take to support anticipated growth across the industry, such as investment in the grid ahead of time and being more proactive in this area as the market expands. It also talks about streamlining consenting and planning procedures, and providing clearer mitigation standards and pathways to get sites approved for installation. This will certainly be a busy time for the sector, but early signs from the Government are encouraging to help make ambitions achievable.

“There is a secondary conversation around how the UK can secure industry benefits of getting more gigawatts of energy production in the water. The government has started with £160 million port infrastructure and factory investment for floating wind and money for R&D, which has been complemented by private investment through organisations such as the Offshore Wind Growth Partnership.

“Projects like the Aberdeen Energy Transition Zone have already shown some of the practical solutions that can make the realisation of net-zero a reality. If ever there were a time for those in oil and gas to bring renewable energy opportunities to the board room, it is now.”

Of course, there are still plenty of challenges yet to be overcome in our journey to net-zero. Nathan continues:

“We need to talk about what comes next to make sure we see the jobs, investment, skills migration and growth needed to deliver these targets. We must consider how to create and develop further enabling actions.

“Currently, the conversation about onshore wind seems to be missing from a clean energy perspective. It’s not true there has been no movement in Government policy on onshore wind – as the general media may have the public believe – and we wait to see the results of the consultations that have been opened regarding reform of existing processes to maximise local benefit. Regardless of the Government’s position on onshore wind in England, there is still a huge amount of onshore wind in development that will continue to construction in the coming years. Much of these projects are in Wales and Scotland, supported by their own Governments to ensure continued growth.

“It is also worth noting that the current strategy focused on medium-term measures to increase green energy over the next decade – no parameters were set for the CfD auctions this summer. There is still time for the Secretary of State to make revisions to the CfD policy that would allow greater procurement than is currently forecast [at time of writing].”

The speed with which onshore wind, offshore wind, solar and tidal projects can start producing energy for the grid make these a very attractive option in light of the current energy situation. This would make the UK’s energy production more self-sufficient in the short-term – and at a lower cost – than using other methods such as nuclear, though most agree that nuclear power will play an important role in the future energy mix. Prioritising low cost and fast-to-function clean energy sources would benefit both the industry and the end bill payer. This is likely the reason why the public response to the Energy Security Strategy hasn’t always been so positive – some were hoping for more immediate improvements in efficiencies in order to reduce demand and therefore drive down pricing. 

However, on the whole this strategy is a very ambitious and progressive step towards a greener future for the UK. The new 5GW target for floating wind is the largest in the world and would keep the UK at the fore of the industry. British organisations are well-placed to stay ahead of the game thanks to our commitment to innovation and the natural geography. This also all sets the scene for a very dynamic and exciting Global Offshore Wind Conference and Exhibition this June, which will provide the perfect opportunity to connect with industry experts and join the conversations going on across the sector right now. Nathan concludes:

“We have a strong pipeline for development of offshore wind, in particular, in the UK. Few countries around the globe are lucky enough to have coastline and shallow waters like us, so we certainly have the edge there. Many markets with a keen appetite for renewable energy – like Brazil, Japan, USA and South Africa – have strong offshore wind resources but deep waters, so may well look towards floating wind instead. This is just a taste of the future of clean energy, but the Energy Security Strategy certainly sets out very positive steps in the right direction.” 

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Published: 10-05-2022

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