NEW oil and gas licenses are to be issued by the UK government and no less than 8 new nuclear reactors will be built as part of its energy strategy.
The delayed strategy was unveiled today and includes setting up a new organization to manage the nuclear ramp-up, which ministers hope will supply 25% of the country’s electricity needs by 2050.
A North Sea task force is also to be set up to provide “tailored support” for new oil and gas projects in the region, with a licensing round opening this autumn.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “We have seen record gas prices around the world.
“We need to protect ourselves from price spikes in the future by accelerating our transition to cleaner, cheaper local energy.
“The simple truth is that the more clean and cheap energy we produce within our borders, the less we will be exposed to exorbitant fossil fuel prices set by global markets that we cannot control.
“Scaling up cheap renewables and new nuclear, while maximizing North Sea production, is the best and only way to ensure our energy independence over the next few years.”
READ MORE: New North Sea oil and gas licenses to start this autumn as part of UK’s ‘energy independence’ plan
Along with nuclear and oil and gas, the government has announced its ambition to double down on low-carbon hydrogen, increase offshore wind energy and relax the rules around onshore wind turbines.
The Treasury is also to increase its funding for the £1bn Energy Company Obligation program by £100m. The program The program offers low-income households subsidies to improve the energy efficiency of their homes.
Announcing the energy strategy today, the Prime Minister said: “We are putting in place bold plans to develop and accelerate affordable, clean and safe energy made in Britain, for Britain, from new nuclear to offshore wind in the coming decade.
“It will reduce our dependence on energy sources exposed to volatile international prices that we cannot control, so that we can enjoy greater energy autonomy with cheaper bills.”
He added that the strategy was to “address some of the mistakes of the past” and ensure that the UK was never again “blackmailed by people like Vladimir Putin”.
Critics say the plan does nothing to help those currently facing soaring energy costs, with bills rising rapidly from this month as the energy price cap rises.
Michael Matheson, the Scottish Government’s energy minister, was furious at the publication of the delayed strategy, saying there had been no consultation with Holyrood over the plans.
Speaking on Good Morning Scotland, Mr Matheson said the strategy ‘would rely heavily on Scotland’s resources’, but he had not received a copy of the strategy in advance, and added that it was “completely unacceptable”.
He said: “The UK government has not provided a copy of the strategy to the Scottish government and they have not engaged with us in the development of the strategy.
“I realized that the development of the strategy has been somewhat chaotic given the media coverage it has had over the past two weeks.
“While we wrote to the UK government last month outlining a range of actions we think they should take and the fact that they will rely very heavily on Scotland’s energy resources, it is It is essential that the Scottish Government be involved in the development of any strategy and consulted on its content.
“Unfortunately none of this has happened, which is completely unacceptable given that Scotland is an exporter of energy to other parts of the UK and will continue to become even more important as we we are heading towards a net zero society.”
Ed Miliband, Labour’s shadow energy secretary, said plans were in “disarray”.
He said: ‘Johnson has completely caved in to his own backbench MPs and now, ridiculously, his own energy strategy has failed in the sprint we needed on onshore wind and solar, energy forms cheapest and cleanest places.
“This stimulus will do nothing for the millions of families facing a crisis in energy bills. No reversal of the onshore wind ban and not a penny more on energy efficiency. The decisions will force households to pay hundreds of pounds more on their energy bills and keep the UK dependent on imported gas for longer.
“After 12 years in government, families are paying the price for Conservative failure. This stimulus will not reduce bills, ensure energy independence or solve the climate crisis. The work would provide a sprint of green energy. This government simply cannot deliver.
The Liberal Democrats have said plans to build new nuclear reactors could add £96 a year to household energy bills and would constitute “energy betrayal”.
The extra cost would arise if each household paid an extra £12 a year for eight new reactors, the party said.
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said: ‘People are facing sky-high energy bills and are looking to the government for urgent help now.
“But instead of rapidly cutting energy costs by developing onshore wind and insulating homes, the government’s nuclear projects will add almost £100 to annual household bills.
“This is an energy betrayal that will add to the pain of households on the brink. Instead of offering the help families need, the Tories seem happy that people’s record energy bills are even higher.
Meanwhile, think tank IPPR said plans focused too much on expensive nuclear proposals and not enough on cheaper alternatives.
Luke Murphy, IPPR’s associate director for energy and climate, said: “This energy strategy appears to be a recipe for failure. The choices the government appears to have made will see consumers pay more, leave the UK less safe and put us all at greater risk of climate change than if different choices had been made.
He added that the plan “fails every test” to make energy more “affordable, safe and clean”, explaining: “Onshore wind to boost clean energy supply and energy efficiency measures to reduce energy demand should have been at the heart of this strategy, but energy efficiency was not mentioned and the proposals for onshore wind seem dismal.
“The government has rather bet big on nuclear power, which has a role, but which remains too expensive and which will take years to make a difference.
“The decision to accelerate oil and gas exploration and reassess fracking is beyond belief.
“Phasing out fossil fuels is not only essential to combat the climate crisis and protect future generations, but it is also in the interest of our energy and economic security.”