Upcoming Energy Security Strategy expected to include higher targets for offshore and floating wind, alongside new energy efficiency measures

The government is planning to strengthen targets for UK offshore wind capacity and boost energy efficiency programmes as part of its plan to reduce the need for Russian oil and gas following the invasion of Ukraine, according to reports.

The expanded wind targets, which are expected to form part of Number 10’s Energy Security Strategy that is slated to be published next week, are set to cover both conventional offshore wind farms and floating wind turbines, Bloomberg reported this morning.

Moreover, the strategy is expected to set out plans to reduce demand for power and heating by increasing the energy efficiency of buildings, sources quoted by the news agency suggested.

First touted by Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week, the upcoming Energy Security Strategy is expected to provide a roadmap for weaning the UK off Russian oil and gas, as well as reducing the country’s exposure to the volatile global market for fossil fuels that has seen energy prices surge over the past year.

The strategy is expected to focus on accelerating deployment of technologies the UK is already pursuing, according to Bloomberg, which would likely therefore include green and low carbon sources of energy, such as wind, nuclear, and potentially hydrogen.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) was considering a request for comment at the time of going to press.

The news comes as the government faces increasing pressure to find alternative sources of oil and gas, having last week pledged to end Russian oil imports altogether by the end of the year.

However, with energy bills set to potentially reach as high as £3,000 by the end of the year thanks to a volatile fossil fuel market that has been exacerbated by the crisis in Ukraine, calls have grown for acceleration in the deployment of cheap, clean renewables and support for energy efficiency measures to reduce demand for gas such as insulation and heat pumps.

Industry groups have long been calling for the government to increase its renewables targets to support national climate targets and the rapid increase in demand for electricity expected over the coming years as heat pumps and electric vehicles are deployed in their millions.

At present, the UK has a target for 40GW of offshore wind power by 2030, which would mark a significant uptick from around 11GW in 2020. The target sits alongside a separate goal for 1GW of floating wind power capacity, a more nascent technology that allows turbines to capture stronger wind speeds further out at sea.

The UK is not the only country looking to expand its domestic sources of renewable energy in response to the crisis in Ukraine. Today the Netherlands announced plans to double its offshore wind goal by adding another 10.7GW in the North Sea to reach 21.7GW by 2030, backed by billions of Euros of additional investment.

However, governments are also looking to diversify their supplies of fossil fuels in response to Russia’s aggression. In the UK, the government is expected to look at means of expanding oil and gas production in the North Sea as part of its energy security plan next week, potentially including a review of the current moratorium on fracking.

However, a report today by the Institute for Government (IfG) warns that increasing domestic production of oil and gas “is unlikely to have any material effect on oil and gas prices” as prices are determined by international markets.

The report argues that in preparation for the possibility of Russia fully cutting off its gas supply to Europe if the war in Ukraine continues to escalate and sanctions start to bite in Moscow, the UK should explore how it would respond to such a scenario, including through tapping alternative sources of domestic oil and gas, extending the life of soon-to-close coal power stations, and expanding renewable energy capacity.

In addition, the government should aim to reduce energy demand by developing incentives, mandates, and public awareness campaigns for energy efficiency measures such as home insulation, as well as providing additional financial support for businesses and households facing a major hike in bills this year, the report argues.

“What is clear is that recent price hikes, especially if sustained, make the case to reduce both energy use and dependence on imported fossil fuels,” it states. “Those are longer-term questions, though Johnson must ensure a short-term pass [for net zero] does not become a long-term abandonment. For now he must work on a plan to protect the UK from the very real prospect of a sudden cut-off of Russian gas.”

In related news, investment firm the Renewables Infrastructure Group has snapped up a 7.8 per cent share in the world’s largest offshore wind farm, Hornsea One, which is situated around 120km off the Yorkshire coast.

The project, which started generating in 2020, provides enough power to meet the needs of around a million homes and is operated by Orsted. The Renewables Infrastructure Group is thought to have acquired the stake for a sum in the region of £240m, according to the Evening Standard.

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