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Government ‘scores three out of 10’ on energy security commitments – analysis

Offshore wind farm (Ben Birchall/PA)
Offshore wind farm (Ben Birchall/PA)

The Government has only achieved three out of 10 commitments it made to boost the UK’s energy security two years ago, analysis has suggested.

The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) examined the plans laid out in the British Energy Security Strategy in April 2022, in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, to boost security of supplies and keep bills low.

It accused the Government of “going backwards” on reducing the country’s reliance on expensive foreign fossil fuel imports.

The think tank’s assessment highlighted 10 key areas for action in the Government’s 2022 strategy, from energy efficiency and grid operations to offshore wind and nuclear power, and warned only three of them had been achieved.

The areas where the Government has made progress in boosting energy security are on hydrogen, including awarding the first contracts for hydrogen projects, work to improve the network and grid operations, and boosting oil and gas production.

But the ECIU warned that issuing more oil and gas licences would not help with bills as international markets set the price of fossil fuel energy, and as oil and gas drilled here does not necessarily stay in the UK it would not improve security.

Elsewhere, the Government was off track to retrofit 450,000 homes with insulation and energy saving measures by 2026 to cut gas demand and bills, according to the ECIU, and likely only to manage half the target level.

The last offshore wind energy auction delivered no new projects, targets to develop new nuclear power had not been met and green levies had not been moved off electricity to support clean tech such as heat pumps, the analysis said.

The analysis also found that while there had been some progress on shifting heating away from gas and oil to clean heat pumps, with a £7,500 grant now in place for households making the switch, other targets and measures had been delayed or scrapped.

New onshore wind developments are still not progressing in England, while there is some progress on delivering more solar power and reducing wait times for energy projects to connect to the grid, the analysis said.

Jess Ralston, energy analyst at the ECIU, said: “The UK has had two energy security strategies within two years and we’re still going backwards, becoming more dependent on foreign imports.”

She said the Government’s Bill requiring annual auctions for North Sea licences for oil and gas drilling had been described as “unnecessary” by the regulator, and would generate minimal more output.

North Sea production was in decline and without a shift away from gas, the UK would be increasingly reliant on foreign fossil fuels, she warned.

“The PM’s U-turning on insulation standards and heat pumps is leaving the UK less energy independent.

“And his Government’s policy failures in securing new offshore wind farms mean the UK could miss out on 22 times more homegrown electricity than could be generated by gas from new North Sea licences.

“If it genuinely wants greater energy security it’s prioritising the wrong things,” she said.

She acknowledged that the Government had increased the heat pump grant and sales were picking up, but delaying other policies meant the UK was lagging far behind other countries including the US and many in Europe.

“Heat pumps are one of the UK’s best weapons in the fight for energy independence,” she said.

A Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ) spokesperson said the Government did not accept the claims.

“Since we published the British Energy Security Strategy we have allocated billions to improve energy efficiency, announced a dedicated record pot of £800 million to back offshore wind projects and increased our heat pump grant to £7,500 – making it one of the most generous schemes in Europe and helping families with costs.

“We have achieved all this while maintaining one of the most secure and diverse energy systems in the world, with renewables now accounting for nearly half of our electricity – up from 7% in 2010 – while backing a domestic oil and gas supply and ending the stop-start approach to nuclear,” they said.