Eight new nuclear reactors will be built in the UK by 2030 under plans unveiled in the government's Energy Security Strategy yesterday.
To support this ambition, a new government body – Great British Nuclear – will be set up to bring forward projects and help deliver 24GW of nuclear energy over the next three decades, which is expected to meet around 25% of electricity demand.
The strategy also includes plans for 50GW of energy from offshore wind by 2030, which would be enough to power every home in the country. Up to 5GW of this is expected from floating offshore wind in deeper seas.
Current solar capacity of 14GW could grow up to five times by 2035 under the proposals, while 10GW of low-carbon hydrogen capacity is expected by 2030, with at least half coming from green hydrogen.
Concerningly, the government has also announced a licensing round for new North Sea oil and gas projects in Autumn, arguing that domestic production has a lower carbon footprint than foreign imports.
The strategy comes in light of rising global energy prices, provoked by surging demand after the pandemic, as well as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Overall, it is anticipated that the proposals could see 95% of electricity by 2030 being low carbon.
Prime minister Boris Johnson said: “We’re setting out bold plans to scale up and accelerate affordable, clean and secure energy made in Britain, for Britain – from new nuclear to offshore wind – in the decade ahead.
“This will reduce our dependence on power sources exposed to volatile international prices we cannot control, so we can enjoy greater energy self-sufficiency with cheaper bills.”
Over 40,000 more jobs in clean industries are expected to be supported by the new measures, bringing the total to 480,000 jobs by 2030.
This includes 90,000 jobs in offshore wind by 2028 – 30,000 more than previously expected; 10,000 jobs in solar power by 2028 – almost double previous expectations; and 12,000 jobs in the hydrogen industry by 2030 – 3,000 more than previously expected.
Despite welcoming the accelerated rollout of renewable energy, Friends of the Earth (FoE) criticised the government for opening the door to more fossil fuel extraction, and for its nuclear energy ambitions.
“New nuclear power stations would take well over a decade to build and they’re expensive, hazardous and produce waste that will remain highly radioactive for thousands of years,” said FoE energy campaigner Danny Gross.
“We have been here before, with eight nuclear sites announced in 2010. Over a decade on, the only one under construction is seriously behind schedule and over budget, with a price far above current renewables.
“Other countries have taken much bolder action to meet the scale of the challenge. Britain can – and must – raise its ambition, to ensure everyone has access to clean, affordable energy."
IEMA's CEO Sarah Mukherjee MBE responded to the strategy:
"The government’s Energy Strategy sets out a diverse mix of supply-side solutions and technologies for meeting the UK’s future energy demand. However, a critical element is missing in terms of policy initiatives and incentives to accelerate significant improvements in energy efficiency of homes, buildings and industry. Only an approach that balances supply-side considerations with reductions in energy consumption will be enough to deliver an affordable system that also contributes to environmental targets being met.
"Moreover, the UK still requires a comprehensive Green Jobs and Skill Strategy if we are to transition to a green, net-zero emissions, economy by 2050."
Image credit: iStock