Dale Edwards, Green Energy Strategic Consultant of Clarke Willmott, comments on the government’s British Energy Security Strategy setting out how Great Britain will accelerate the deployment of wind, new nuclear, solar and hydrogen, whilst supporting the production of domestic oil and gas in the nearer term.  

It was clear with recent events in Ukraine along with Brexit and rising costs that the government needed to address the challenge of ensuring that the UK has a clear strategy which has resilience at its core to ensure there is less dependency on overseas supply of energy.  

As a long-term advocate of nuclear energy, I was delighted that there is significant commitment in growing the nuclear fleet. Nuclear energy can provide a reliable base layer of clean energy over decades, which renewable energy solutions currently cannot. Ever since the green light to start building Hinkley Point C was given in 2016 there has been much talk of the renaissance of the nuclear industry with future builds to follow on, taking advantage of new skills that have been developed, cost efficiencies and continuous improvement.  

The nuclear energy strategy has an ambition of generating up to 24GW by 2050, which would represent up to around 25% of the projected electricity demand, with Sizewell in Suffolk and Wylfa in Anglesey citied as sites for projects to start. With the prospect of eight new reactors along with small modular reactors these are exciting times for the sector and has significant supply chain opportunities to businesses across the UK. With a clear plan to grow nuclear, there will be renewed confidence that businesses can gear themselves up to take advantage of opportunities over the next few decades.  

A number of the other elements of the strategy involve increasing the commitments as outlined in the Energy White Paper, which was published in December 2020. This is encouraging and ambitious, with major uplifts on expectations on offshore wind, hydrogen production and solar.

One aspect of the announcement which also caught my attention was a new licensing round for North Sea oil and gas projects later in the year. New oil and gas projects will undoubtedly increase the UK carbon footprint, but I appreciate the conflicting requirement for energy resilience. As long as the new projects can minimise their carbon footprint which will include offsetting this is a pragmatic compromise which is probably needed at this time, which could be scaled back later.   

Summary

In summary, the British Energy Security Strategy is another positive step in the direction of achieving net zero, rejuvenating the economy and providing long-term energy security. What these ambitious plans need is action which is timely along with funding and planning simplification to ensure they happen. The cost to achieve will be in the many billions which the government must finically support to encourage the private sector to invest. If this opportunity to re-draw the energy landscape does not materialise then achieving objectives of net zero by 2050, developing a robust and outward looking green economy along with ensuring the UK has energy security may not happen. 

With over twenty years of experience in the green energy sector Clarke Willmott’s cross disciplinary team of solicitors will closely monitor changes in legalisation and regulation that are likely to result because of the emerging green economy. We are here to support our clients from landowners, investors, builders and operators to navigate through these exciting and changing times in green energy helping our clients achieve their goals.

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