Energy security is vital to UK prosperity. As a net importer of all main fuel types, further investment in domestic production is needed to not only limit our exposure to foreign shocks impacting the cost or supply of fossil fuels, but to facilitate the transition to a net zero economy and to diversify our energy portfolio.
To meet our legal obligations, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has emphasised the need to ramp up the policies which will form the foundation of the net zero economy, which includes quadrupling our supply of low-carbon electricity by 2050, developing carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology and low-carbon hydrogen.
This transition must take place rapidly and must be supported by an integrated national policy framework. We must move away from fossil fuels towards a combination of gas-fired power stations run with CCS, nuclear and renewable sources including offshore and onshore wind, solar and marine power.
The development of a smart grid, full rollout of smart meters and efforts to improve energy efficiency are also integral to success. In doing so we must ensure all new housing stock is built to required standards, with a focus on rooftop solar and insulation.
Government has a crucial role to play in this transition and it is clear that all future departmental decisions, particularly those on spending, must pass a net zero test to ensure that we deliver the target.
In the Waveney constituency that I represent, and across East Anglia, much is being achieved through harnessing natural resources. Parts of one of the largest clusters of offshore wind farms in the world are either in operation, being built, or being planned. 4GW of power is already operational off the East Anglian coast, accounting for over 50% of the UK’s installed capacity.
This success is being mirrored in energy hot spots around the UK and, with potential developments in the pipeline, we will be able to provide much of the Government’s newly revised higher target of 40GW by 2030 and subsequently 75GW by 2050.
Being the windiest country in Europe and with ambitious plans to expand offshore wind generation, it is clear the UK could become an energy exporter to Europe.
To meet the increased demand from electrification, particularly from electric vehicles and low-carbon heating, the Government should also support subsidy-free onshore wind projects. Enabling such projects to compete in contracts for difference auctions would provide a route to market for the cheapest source of new electricity generation to be built where there is local support, ensuring that we decarbonise at the lowest cost to the consumer
To maximise the potential of both onshore, offshore wind and solar, Government initiatives must be coupled with the development of battery storage, which will enable energy to be stored when the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining. Equally, developments in battery technology to meet the expected boom in electric cars is key to future success.
Nuclear energy also has an important part to play in providing long-term low-carbon energy security and it is important we press ahead with projects such as Sizewell C in Suffolk.
Finally, with the UK having 50% of Europe’s tidal energy and 35% of its wave energy, the UK is in pole position to be the world leader in this sector, which could contribute to the UK’s future energy mix, further improving self-sufficiency. We should support these emerging technologies to bring down their costs, and consider funding arrangements to support them in their early stages, as we did with solar and wind.
Above all, it is the role of government and the private sector to act swiftly to obtain the optimum balance.