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Jeremy's Blog 14th April 2022: British Energy Security Strategy

This article by Jeremy Moody first appeared in the CAAV e-Briefing of 14th April 2022

The UK Government’s new British Energy Security Strategy, responding to the rising energy costs of the last year and now the Ukraine War, is better seen as a snapshot of work belatedly in progress, at differing stages needing more development and with much implementation to be done offering little immediate easing.

Our energy networks have anyway been expected to come under pressure this decade as old power plants are withdrawn and new ones have yet to come on stream. The rapid growth of smaller, variable supplies from scattered renewable facilities has made managing the Grid harder with more incidents outside the intended 49.8 to 50.2 MHz band (though still within approved operational limits). Achieving net zero is then to double electricity use, as renewables rather than fossil fuel powers transport and heating.

The bones of the Government’s approach are to:

  • return to a nuclear programme which would take time to come on stream
  • accelerate offshore wind, again likely to take time
  • favour solar within constraints but restrain onshore wind in England (planning is devolved), perhaps the easiest ways to increase cheaper supply swiftly.

As increased renewables will at times generate surplus power that could be used to produce hydrogen or be stored. With gas thought likely to remain dear for some time, these are not short-term answers for a task so large that all tools are needed.

Only now connecting plant approved when Gordon Brown was Prime Minister, the real constraint of Grid and transmission connections and capacity is not yet answered. Instead, the paper outlines an array of policy work over the coming year, with an acceptance of providing for future need. We need real changes soon to relax regulation, funding and planning to help assure practical capacity for the Strategy to be more than headlines, anything like the targets to be met and unlock the large and sustained investment boom in renewables forecast today by BlackRock.

The paper focuses more on supply than demand and efficiency. Facing the politics of sharply increased energy costs, it repeats existing commitments on efficiency, looks ahead to systems that manage demand but cannot offer large short-term results. Yet 1kWh of reduced use saves 1.2kWh of generation. High prices will encourage efficiency throughout the system but an effective efficiency programme for owner-occupiers and businesses as well as let property is a large, long-term, expensive and disruptive part of the solution.

Whichever way you look, this re-electrification of Britain with new generation, transmission and efficiency will create work for years to come.

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