The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ) has published* a policy plan setting out aims to enhance the UK’s energy security and deliver on net zero commitments.
Prof Richard Cochrane, Associate Professor in Renewable Energy, University of Exeter, said:
“The principle that we should generate more energy in the UK to save us importing fossil fuels from overseas is well supported. I do feel though that the government still have not understood the priorities and urgency here. Onshore wind is the cheapest and quickest option. There are jobs needed to manufacture, install and maintain the turbines but better to employ local people than spending money on imported fuels. This should be the top priority for generation and support for the manufacturing sector.
“Offshore wind and in particular Floating Wind Turbines could be a sector we could strongly lead on but broad support is needed in terms of port infrastructure, wind farm design and upgrades to the National Grid.
“Heating our homes is a major contributor to our energy use and carbon emissions. Supporting the transition to heat pumps as well as the work to upgrade insulation would be a sensible area to take forward and it is good these areas are highlighted.”
Prof Martin Siegert, Professor of Geosciences and Deputy VC, University of Exeter, said:
“This is a very welcome announcement, focusing on key areas that are essential for the UK’s sustainable green energy security. There should be a recognition that as we become ‘electrified’ and as we push for expanded wind power and other technologies for our security the critical materials, such as rare earth elements, must be sourced and secured responsibly. The UK has an abundance of such metals in Cornwall, and so it would seem logical for acknowledgement of the vital importance of the SW to the UK’s energy strategy.”
Prof Kevin Anderson, Professor of Energy and Climate Change at the Tyndall Centre, University of Manchester, said:
“As the apocryphal King Cnut misunderstood the forces behind the tide, so Sunak, Shapps, Hunt and those extolling the virtues of the Government’s ‘green’ announcements misunderstand basic physics. The harm from repeatedly stuffing yourself with chocolate is not compensated by eating your greens. Similarly, the Government granting licenses for new oil, gas and coal developments is not compensated by expanding renewables, nuclear & other low-carbon tech. The science sees straight through the promises of snake-oil policy makers and will just continue to warm the climate until such time as we cease burning fossil fuels.
“In isolation some of the Government’s plans are to be welcomed, but as an overall energy package our leaders are simply locking in ongoing global heating for decades to come. Just two years ago, and under the banner of “keep 1.5 alive”, this Government revelled in hosting the annual international climate negotiations in Glasgow (COP26). Cut through the crap, and the message from the physics is clear and direct. To hold global heating to no more than 1.5°C (or even 2°C), there must be no new development of oil, gas and coal fields, and existing supply needs to be rapidly phased out. The good news is that much of the technical and engineering expertise currently in the oil and gas sector is urgently needed to construct a low carbon energy system.”
Dr Friederike Otto, Senior Lecturer in Climate Science at Grantham Institute – Climate Change and the Environment, Imperial College London, said:
“Carbon capture is currently ineffective and an extremely costly experiment, distracting from the measures that we know are effective and can implement today.
“The UK government should not be investing £20 billion in a strategy that is essentially an ambulance at the bottom of a cliff when we could use the money to not go down the cliff in the first place.
“The latest IPCC Synthesis Report has just highlighted that there are a number of solutions available that’ll make energy cheaper and cleaner with benefits for health and the environment. They require commitment from the government to be implemented.”
Prof Patrick Devine-Wright at Exeter University and Director of the ACCESS project said:
“The 2022 IPCC report made clear the vital role that reducing energy demand has for climate change mitigation. The measures outlined appear heavily weighted towards supply side measures and large-scale infrastructure projects such as CCUS, Hydrogen, Nuclear and Offshore Wind. Investments in local energy initiatives, including energy efficiency and heat pumps are small by comparison. Moreover, rhetoric on ‘speeding up planning’ could run counter to enabling inclusive community engagement and support for solar and wind. The promised ‘energy revolution’ needs to see people at the heart of action on climate change and energy security, as emphasised by ACCESS.”
Dr Laurence Wainwright, Departmental Lecturer & Course Director, Smith School of Enterprise & Environment, University of Oxford, said:
“The strategy is to be commended for the manner in which its foundational assumptions are built on systems thinking, recognizing the interdependencies between energy security, affordability, environmental sustainability and economic prosperity. Previous British Government policies have tended to frame each of these challenges somewhat in isolation to one another. From research and past experience, we know that complex sustainability and economic challenges cannot be correctly understood, or solved, in a linear, cause-and-effect manner. As such, framing these challenges in the right way, as has been done in these strategy documents, is a positive step forward.
“While Powering up Britain is certainly not a disappointment – and considerably better than what media speculation last week had characterised it to be – reading it does leave one feeling a little flat and underwhelmed. Compared to the scale, ambition and grandiosity of recent US and EU announcements, one has to ask whether this strategy represents the UK scaling back its previous intentions to be a world leader in collapsing the energy trilemma and seizing green growth opportunities and settling for good rather than great. Oxford Smith School research has shown the enormous opportunities and payoffs to be had for those countries who move quickly on decarbonizing their economies. It remains to be seen whether the UK will seize these opportunities or watch them accelerate away.”
Prof Marcelle McManus, Director of the Institute for Sustainability, University of Bath, said:
“On first glance this seems as if it’s going in the right direction… but it’s hard to tell without details. What I would say is that we need to invest in all aspects of renewable energy and removing fossil fuels from our economy. The investment in green hydrogen and CCUS is excellent news, but only if coupled with wider and stable investment in low and no carbon solutions in the wider energy area, as well as in the production of materials which are traditionally made from petrochemicals. What we don’t see here is mention it demand reduction and management – which is also critical to decarbonisation and true sustainability.”
Prof Myles Allen, Professor of Geosystem Sciences, University of Oxford, said:
“Is the Government prepared to commit to geological net zero and make safe and permanent disposal of carbon dioxide a licensing condition of continued extraction and import of fossil fuels? This would be truly revolutionary, and show the world how to stop fossil fuels from causing further global warming before the world stops using fossil fuels. But instead, we are still issuing extraction licenses without conditions and promising to spend lots of tax- or rate-payers’ money on cleaning up CO2. Why?”
Prof Jim Watson, Professor of Energy Policy and Director of the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources, said:
“The government is absolutely right that an energy revolution is required. But their list of announcements is only a partial answer to the challenges we face due to climate change, high prices and energy security. Once again, they appear to be neglecting one of the cheapest forms of low carbon electricity, onshore wind. It is very unclear whether the effective moratorium on this technology will be lifted. In addition, the one sided approach of last year’s Energy Security Strategy remains. Support for energy efficiency measures that will help to insulate households from high bills in future is simply inadequate. Whilst helping those on lowest incomes to upgrade their homes is welcome, millions of other households will also need such help.”
Professor Stuart Haszeldine, Chair of Carbon Capture and Storage at the University of Edinburgh, said:
“Carbon capture and geological storage is an essential technology to decrease future carbon emissions from industry, and enable recapture and storage of CO2 greenhouse gases from historical and future hard-to-catch dispersed emissions. CCS is proven in full-scale North Sea and offshore operations since 1996 and 2008. CCS is a tens of million tonnes CO2 remedy, appropriate to a millions of tonnes CO2 problem.
“Guarantees of £20Bn provide confidence for tens of commercial investors, partnering in multiple projects, to build a climate-saving CO2 storage ambition unequalled in the world. Two current project groupings will be expanded. And two new Track 2 groupings are launched for competitive bidding.
“But Government needs to accelerate these new Track 2 groupings much faster through assessment and planning. Because these UK investors have already been designing since 2015, then on hold since 2021. Attractive CCS opportunities are emerging globally in the USA, Denmark and Norway. The UK is now in a race to keep the best global talent and to grow project numbers fast enough to create world leading industries which can design and supply this new immense offshore opportunity globally.
“And Government also needs to remember that for each winner in the UK competitions, there are three non-winners – who can each still be world leaders. Can follow-on projects be rapidly consented and licensed for commercial investment, to keep these businesses engaged with the North Sea exploration licenses bid for in 2022? Now planning and pace need to match what the UK did during the North Sea 1990’s oil boom which transformed industrial investment.”
Prof Matthew Paterson, Professor of International and Climate Change Politics, The University of Manchester, said:
“This appears to be largely a set of existing initiatives repackaged rather than anything dramatically new. Most of these points were in the ‘Green Industrial Revolution’ strategy of early 2020.
“They are highly balanced towards new sorts of energy supply. The question of energy efficiency/conservation/insulation, which is key, is definitely the ‘Cinderella’ part of the package. 300000 homes to retrofit is laughably limited given how big the challenge of the UK’s leaky home is. Plus, if the strategy ends up relying on fiscal subsidies, then this retrofit goal is very unlikely to succeed, since the occupants of the 300000 worst homes are unlikely to have the means to pay for part of the retrofit not covered by the subsidy.
“Other obvious absences are in (a) the ongoing policy support for fossil fuels, notably additional north sea oil and gas licences, which are not mentioned here but basically contradict the strategy outlined, (b) the ongoing issues of onshore wind and solar which could be revived very usefully and (c) related to the latter, ambitious upgrading of building regulations to make all new homes zero (or negative, with rooftop solar) carbon.”
Dr Edward Manderson, Lecturer in Environmental Economics, The University of Manchester, said:
“It’s a critical blow, economically and environmentally, to see zero mention of onshore wind. If the government relaxed planning permissions to expand onshore wind development at scale, we can secure our position as a world leader in this technology, therefore attracting the investment, securing supply and reducing energy bills – the three guiding principles of today’s announcement. Instead, it feels like they’ve forgone this logical opportunity in favour of shoring up votes for next year’s election.”
Prof Dave Reay, Executive Director of Edinburgh Climate Change Institute, University of Edinburgh, said:
“These plans are thin, blinkered and leave us lagging well behind the US and EU in terms of investment for a sustainable and just transition to net zero. No number of shiny new technologies is going to cut it on climate change if there aren’t the people with the skills to make use of them – there is scant detail here on how the government will address the very large workforce and skills needs for net zero, nor is it clear how these plans will help reduce the deep social inequalities that exist across the UK. As other nations mobilise massive investment for the net zero transition, and the alarm bells of the global climate emergency grow ever louder, these plans are limp as a wilting lettuce.”
Dr Peter Connor, Associate Professor of Sustainable Energy Policy at the University of Exeter, said:
“Are green initiatives really green if most of the support goes to prop up fossil fuels? Easily the best funded plank of this policy initiative is Carbon Capture and Storage, £20bn for a technology which has previously proved to be great at sucking in money with little to show in terms of large-scale reduction of carbon entering the atmosphere. This is a commitment to maintaining the status quo of burning fossil fuels, against the day that power plants might one day be able to graft on a unit which captures some of the carbon dioxide emitted, at substantial extra cost per unit of energy generated. Development globally has failed to meet goals on many occasions.
“This commitment to providing life support to fossil fuels continues with hydrogen production, which looks to require at least a decade of using fossil fuels for production before there is enough excess of renewable energy to support hydrogen production going green. Support dwarfs that for heat pumps, a proven technology which a UK Energy Research Centre report only yesterday emphasised can help the UK make homes much more efficient while lowering carbon emissions.”
Dr Paul Balcombe, Senior lecturer in Chemical Engineering and Renewable Energy at Queen Mary University of London, said:
“Investing in new low carbon energy infrastructure is great, and the green hydrogen investment represents an exciting opportunity, but the most sustainable way to be low carbon and increase security is to reduce our energy demand: the stated intention of insulating 300,000 out of our ~20+ million homes is clearly insufficient when we have such a poorly insulated housing stock.
“The strong focus on carbon capture and storage rather than a more rapid expansion of renewables and storage is a concern for the longer term if we are to enable a rapid transition away from fossil fuel infrastructure.”
Prof Mari Martiskainen, Professor of Energy and Society in the University of Sussex Business School, said:
“We could improve energy security by having a better focus on improving energy efficiency and using energy demand measures as the first fuel, especially in homes, buildings and transport. The government has provided much needed help on energy bills but still lacks a long-term solution on fixing our leaky buildings that contribute to emissions and leave many facing higher energy bills. Climate change requires urgent action on more renewables and better energy efficiency, not more drilling of oil and gas”.
Ian Byrne, Principal of Ian Byrne Energy & Carbon Consultancy Services, said:
“The strategy aims to improve domestic energy efficiency by insulating just 300,000 of our 25 million homes, yet at the same time supports the introduction of heat pumps by continuing the grant scheme. Evidence shows that many homes can only operate heat pumps economically if their insulation and internal heat distribution (typically using central heating radiators) are radically improved before installing a heat pump. Continuing to support one without the other will lead to poorly and expensively heated homes and is likely to end up with a backlash against heat pumps, which are a necessary technology on the country’s pathway to net zero.
“The government also remains too focused on a switch away from petrol or diesel cars to EVs. If as much money was spent on providing excellent cycle infrastructure such as segregated cycle lanes and secure storage near workplaces, especially in medium sized towns where few journeys exceed five miles, total carbon savings could be greater, and there will be additional savings for the NHS due to healthier citizens.
“Mass uptake of heat pumps and electric vehicles (EVs) will also require significant upgrades to local electricity distribution systems. These are ignored completely by the latest statement, as well as the opportunity for the UK to become a world leader in flexibility – moderating demand to match available supplies of clean renewable electricity.”
Prof Kevin Taylor, Professor of Sedimentology and Tectonics, The University of Manchester, said:
“Once again, there is no provision for any meaningful investments in geothermal heat, especially in large conurbations. The announcement mentions heat pumps but these will mostly be air-source. Shallow ground source heat pumps and aquifer thermal energy storage systems have a much larger uptake in other European countries, especially where they are mandated for new houses and developments.
“In the north of England, many large cities have significant potential to support these systems. These can feed green heat networks, with heat pumps upgrading the heating and cooling when demand is high. This approach is being seriously planned in areas such as Greater Manchester, leading to potential to decouple heating from electric/gas prices. However, the upfront costs are a barrier.
“The Government will point to their green heat network funds, but the amounts available hardly touch the sides meaning we are missing an opportunity to leverage something within our grasp.”
Dr Steve Smith at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford, said:
“There are several good things in here: energy efficiency and heat pumps for households, carbon capture & storage, offshore wind and green hydrogen. The key question is this: does it all add up to achieving net zero? We need to see the working. Remember the government had to make this announcement today because its previous net zero strategy was found by the courts to be insufficient.”
Dr Shaun Fitzgerald FREng, Director of the Centre for Climate Repair at Cambridge, said:
“The commitments for further investment in Carbon Capture is greatly welcomed. We have a number of industries which are very hard to decarbonise, and getting carbon capture onto the exhaust stacks from industrial processes will help greatly for the UK in its transition to net zero. But more importantly, getting this system tested and rolled out at scale will help not only build skills in the UK but enable the UK to export technologies to support other nations in their decarbonisation journey too.
“The investment in homes is also greatly welcomed, but there is a lot to do there. We have 25 million dwellings, so whilst 300,000 homes is a great initiative it would be good to see this scaled even further.”
Dr Ed Atkins, energy policy expert at the University of Bristol Cabot Institute for the Environment, said:
On ‘Speeding up the planning process to attract investment’ –
“A streamlined planning process will, in theory, lead to projects being built quicker but it will create new problems too. We live in a country where local Green Party councillors are opposing solar projects – which is not where we want to be. Any sped-up planning process needs to prioritise communities having a voice in project planning, construction, and ownership as much as it encourages new investment.”
On The Great British Insulation Scheme –
“Any improvement in current energy efficiency policy is welcome, particularly if it helps the most vulnerable. We need to be ambitious. 78% of households rely on gas for their central heating – any roll-out of energy efficiency and heat pumps needs to be ramped up to protect those millions of people who remain at risk of future price uncertainty.”
Simon Harrison, Group Head of Strategy at Mott MacDonald and Member of the National Engineering Policy Centre Net Zero Working Group, said:
“It’s good to see investments framed around energy security being targeted to areas that are also consistent with decarbonisation, and the need to act in that regard is urgent, as evidenced by recent reports from the Climate Change Committee and the NAO. However, we need such investments to form part of a systems-led delivery plan rather than risk being useful but isolated initiatives. We need, urgently, governance arrangements that drive effective decision making and delivery on a system-wide basis. Not having this risks spending more than we need to, and not reaching what are now challenging targets.”
Prof Adrian Bull, BNFL Chair in Nuclear Energy and Society at the Dalton Nuclear Institute, The University of Manchester, said:
“It’s excellent news that, after what seems like an eternity, we finally have some “white smoke” on Great British Nuclear – with two brilliantly talented nuclear industry figures at the helm.
“We mustn’t underestimate the challenge they will face – to simultaneously recruit a team to the new organisation and also to launch a competition to select the best SMR technologies by the autumn.
“I would urge them to be flexible in how they approach the task – and to resist the temptation to simply collect a lot of nuclear reactor brochures. Instead they must open discussions with those who have already started to form partnerships where the pieces of the overall jigsaw – including reactor technology, sites, funding, operational expertise, regulatory approval and supply chains – are starting to come together.”
Dr Chris Jones, Knowledge Exchange Fellow, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of Manchester, said:
“This latest Government energy strategy is a weak response to the UK’s energy security and zero carbon energy needs. The positive measures – on renewables, industrial CCS, heating and insulations – are underpowered. The regressive measures on fossil fuels won’t make any real impact on our bills and energy security, but they are enough to downgrade the UK’s role as a leader in tackling climate change.”
Dr Joe Briscoe, Reader in Energy Materials and Devices at Queen Mary University of London, said:
“The only real route to UK energy security is to put the maximum support behind renewables. The UK has some of the best renewable resource potential in the world. All of the required technologies are available and ready to be rapidly rolled out at scale. By combining new technologies with energy efficiency measures, improved grid management (including smart grids), a push towards greener industry, electrification and wider storage capacity and options including hydrogen, all of our needs can be met while rapidly rolling back fossil fuel consumption.
“CCUS has its place, but must not be used as an excuse to sidestep this opportunity and maintain the status quo. If the government truly will remove regulatory hurdles and provide clear, consistent and long-term support, we will be able to decouple from the global risks around fossil fuel supply chains and markets. At the same time we would promote sustainable growth of jobs and industry in the UK.”
David Parkin, Project Director at HyNet, a Phase 1 Industrial Decarbonisation cluster which will host the first Carbon Capture projects, said:
“We are absolutely delighted that the rollout the first Carbon Capture clusters has been brought closer today. HyNet will decarbonise one of the UK’s most important industrial heartlands with the North-West supporting the most manufacturing jobs of any UK region.
“HyNet is at the forefront of the UK’s new British carbon capture sector – leading the way in the development of the infrastructure, skills and the supply chain. It will enable the region to retain high value roles, secure 6,000 new jobs, attract inward investment and cultivate a supply chain across the region. It will also give industry the ability to produce the environmentally friendly products that consumers are increasingly demanding.
“This is good news for the UK’s fight against climate change, good news for the North West and North Wales region, and good news for British industry and the economy.”
Prof Emily Shuckburgh, Director of Cambridge Zero, University of Cambridge, said:
“It is great that the Government has recognised the potential for green business and industry to provide millions of new green jobs in the UK and to support our energy security. But with the IPCC warning that there is a rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future, our national security will not be safe if we also continue to promote fossil fuels, abroad or at home, rather than focusing exclusively on the race to net zero.”
Prof Nick Eyre, Director of the Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions (CREDS), said:
“The Government has missed an open goal here. The most effective and lowest cost measures to address energy security concerns are investment in renewable energy and energy demand reduction. These are precisely the same measures that the latest IPCC report shows are central to achieving net zero. Yet the Prime Minister, Chancellor and Secretary of State all fail even to mention the key role of energy saving. Instead, the Government has prioritised support for more costly, environmentally damaging and risky options, such as nuclear power and fossil fuel technology. It is a huge missed opportunity.”
Prof Roger Falconer FREng, Emeritus Professor of Water and Environmental Engineering at Cardiff University, said:
“I am disappointed not to see any indication of investment in tidal range energy in today’s announcement. One of our largest natural energy resources in the UK (particularly along the west coast of the country) is our high tidal ranges. It still surprises me that we are not seizing the opportunity to capture this energy efficiently through large tidal range schemes in the form of lagoons and barrages. Tidal energy is predictable, and the technology proven (e.g., the La Rance barrage in France has been operational for over 50 years and continues to deliver cheap energy). Furthermore, tidal range schemes have a working design life of 120+ years, and I cannot imagine that the embankments will be removed after 120 years. When the total energy price is considered over the life of the project, then large tidal range energy can be shown to be comparable in cost to nuclear (without the challenges of long-term management of radio-active waste) and offshore wind (particularly when the costs of bringing the energy to shore and inflation post 2012 prices are included). The tidal range schemes currently being proposed are all close to major urban conurbations (e.g., Liverpool, Severn Estuary and Bristol Channel) and also offer other benefits, such as mitigation against coastal erosion, reduced upstream river flood risk and defence again sea level rise, to mention but a few. Having worked on tidal range schemes for ca. 20 years, I find the case increasingly compelling for tidal range and tidal stream energy schemes to contribute to the UK’s energy mix, and particularly since both tidal energy options are complementary to one another.”
Prof Nilay Shah, Professor of Process Systems Engineering at Imperial College London, said:
“It’s good to see a broad and balanced approach with emphasis on renewable electricity, CCUS, nuclear power, energy efficiency, residential heating and hydrogen as the transition to net zero will require rapid progress in all of these technologies as well as their integration. The link with the low-carbon industrial clusters is also important because they will help to scale up hydrogen production and use and CCUS in a targeted fashion.”
Prof Jon Gibbins, Professor of CCS at the University of Sheffield, and Director of UKCCSRC, said:
“Funding has been confirmed for a world-leading UK CCS deployment programme based on two CO2 pipeline transport and storage clusters, on the East and West Coasts. These will collect CO2 from industries and transport it to secure geological storage sites tens of kilometres offshore and more than a kilometre beneath the sea bed, in the Irish and North Seas. The CO2 will come from new and existing industrial sources, preserving existing high value jobs and supporting new ones.
“Overall this is a sound national investment in an area where the UK has intrinsic advantages. It will also make a major contribution to accelerating global deployment of CCS, a key enabler for delivering the global net zero, and then net negative, emissions that are essential for a long-term solution to dangerous climate change.”
Prof Mark Maslin, Professor of Climatology, University College London (UCL), said:
“Yet again the UK Government has missed the opportunity to radically change the UK energy production and market. This is the time that innovative business led initiatives are needed. For example, all new building should have heat pumps and the highest level of insulation – with a new independent inspectorate to ensure existing and new policies are followed. Finance, including the pension companies, should be allowed to invest in insulating and conversion of every household to heat exchangers – with long-term guaranteed financial returns on the energy bills of each house. Electric vehicle charging points should be provided for every home and business. In addition, Government should regulate that all electric vehicles batteries should be compatible, so instead of waiting for your car to charge up, you can simply swop the batteries at an energy station and drive off. At the moment the Government announcement is more of the same, lacks insight to the energy issues and invests money in dead-end technology such as hydrogen.”
Prof John Underhill, Aberdeen University’s Director for Energy Transition, said:
“The package of measures in wind and nuclear energy, hydrogen and carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) that have been announced will collectively help accelerate the Energy Transition by providing energy, reduce our industrial emissions, and help the UK meet its net zero targets. The measures will continue the build out of the UK’s renewable energy capability as we seek to reduce our reliance on oil and gas, which provides three-quarters of our current energy needs.”
Prof Peter Styring, Director of the UK Centre for Carbon Dioxide Utilization and Professor of Chemical Engineering & Chemistry at the University of Sheffield, said:
“The tranche of interventions are well-timed and show a great commitment to reducing greenhouse emissions while at the same time building a more secure and resilient energy system for Britain. However, we must ensure we make the right decisions and use the right technologies to achieve this. For too long we have been relying on outdated technology approaches that do not work in the best interests of the electorate. We need to ensure that the policies adopted do not extend the social divide by making decisions that only favour the most affluent members of society. The government has a fiduciary fiscal duty to the population to ensure that the proposed investments are made widely, making science-based policy decisions and not perpetuating existing mistakes.”
Prof Stuart Haszeldine: ‘does not receive funding of any type for projects involved in the UK CCS competition; he receives funds from UK research councils to work on energy, CCS and Net Zero’
Prof Dave Reay: none to declare
Ian Byrne: ‘I don’t have any pecuniary interests, other than my independent advice work.’
Prof Nick Eyre was a Review Editor of the IPCC Mitigation Report
Prof Nilay Shah: Director of Zero Petroleum Ltd
For all other experts, no reply to our request for DOIs was received.